England

Fish used by drug smugglers re-homed at aquarium

Arowana fish
Image caption One of the freshwater arowanas that has been rehomed at a Cheshire aquarium

Four large fish used in a drug smuggling operation have been re-homed at a Cheshire aquarium.

The freshwater arowanas were used in an attempt to smuggle 17kg of cocaine, with a street value of £1.6m, from Colombia to the UK in 2011.

The drugs were hidden in sealed bags containing more than 16,000 tropical fish, most of which died in transit.

The fish, along with eight pacus and a large catfish, were transported to Blue Planet Aquarium, near Ellesmere Port.

Of the 16,000 fish found, only 34 fish survived. Some were looked after at London Zoo and some were transferred to Bristol Zoo.

Aquarium curator David Wolfenden said: "Clearly the smugglers did not care at all about the fishes' welfare and the fact that nearly all of them perished during the smuggling operation is extremely sad.

"It's something of a miracle that any managed to survive the ordeal and we're glad they can now live out their time here with us in a large, purpose-built display."

The largest of the pacus is a metre long and weighs almost 40kg.

The aquarium hopes to use the fish to promote the Big Fish Campaign - an initiative to try and raise awareness of the problems caused by the sale of fast-growing exotic fish species.

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