Meeko the masked marauder seeks asylum in the Upper Swansea Valley
MEET Meeko the masked marauder — outlawed by the USA but offered sanctuary in the Upper Swansea Valley.
Described as a wild animal, the North American racoon is currently in solitary confinement while her future is sorted out.
The story of how the runaway arrived in the Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary near Abercrave, after travelling over 3,000 miles from North America, could be the subject of a block-busting Disney movie, but it's a true life adventure.
It appears the cheeky lady climbed inside a container that was shipped across the Atlantic to Liverpool before being transported by road to Ebbw Vale, where she was discovered and handed over to the authorities.
Jan Garen, who runs the Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary with her husband Graham, said: "She came all the way from the America, we know this because she arrived inside a container delivered to Sears Seating in Ebbw Vale via Liverpool.
"When they saw her they notified Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), they had no choice. Defra then contacted us because we have quarantine facilities to keep her in quarantine."
The female adult, now called Meeko after the racoon character in the Disney film Pocahontas, was the worse for wear on arrival.
Mrs Garen said: "She is getting used to us but she has had a rough ride. She was locked in that container for four weeks and somehow survived by drinking condensation and eating cardboard.
"It's obvious that she wasn't a pet, she's a wild animal so she has to be handled very carefully."
Currently being fed on a diet of diet of fruit, boiled eggs and cat biscuits it looks as if Meeko is set for a long stay in south Wales.
Mrs Garen said: "We have to keep her as it would cost too much to send her back and the US authorities are unlikely to foot the bill. They are like foxes in America, can you imagine our Government paying to send a fox back from America?"
Now the Garens are looking for support to build Meeko a new permanent home.
Mrs Garen said: "We will have to build her somewhere to live with an area to climb, that will be another expense and we rely entirely on donations."