A cargo ship captain has carried out a daring rescue to save an unusual passenger called Boris who went overboard off the UK.

The meerkat escaped from his cage on the 528-dwt palletised cargo carrier Gry Maritha (built 1981) off Cornwall last week, it has emerged.

The BBC reported that master Tom Sexton dived from the vessel to pluck the bedraggled mammal from the sea.

Another meerkat, Doris, also escaped, but stayed on board and was recaptured by the crew.

The saga began when the Gry Maritha docked at Penzance.

Owner Stephen Griffin, who was taking Boris to the Axe Valley Zoo in Axminster, Devon, said both animals were running around the deck after the escape.

“They caught Doris but Boris jumped 10 metres into the water,” he said.

A box was lowered to the captain on a rope, so that Boris could be winched back on board.

The three-year-old meerkat was described as “not a good swimmer” by Griffin.

He eventually reached the zoo safely.

Not good swimmers

“It was great to have him back and I’m so grateful to the crewman,” the owner said. “Boris looked very cold but he survived and seemed quite happy.”

Sexton added: “I watched him go over the side and saw he could swim, so I had a bit of time to get changed into something a bit more decent, you know.”

“We managed to catch one of them and put it in a box, but the other one legged it straight over the edge,” he said.

The captain was not aware the animals could swim. Internet information also suggests meerkats and water do not mix.

“I looked over the side as he went down and sure enough there he was swimming around. So I went and got changed. I had gloves on because I knew they were a bit bitey, so I just jumped in and went and got him,” Sexton added.

He also told the BBC he reckoned Boris was quite glad to be caught.

The vessel is operated by Isles Of Scilly Shipping.