On Monday, the 5th of August, Canada woke up to the devastating news that two young boys had been killed by an African rock python being kept as a pet in New Brunswick, Campbellton. The news quickly traveled the world and raised again concerns about keeping wild snakes at home.
Noah and Connor Barthe
The two boys, Noah and Connor Barthe (aged four and six) were sleeping at the apartment of a friend, Jean Claude Savoie, when the most bizarre and tragic turn of events took place. A 45-kg snake owned by Savoie managed to escape from its enclosure and found its way through the ventilation system. However, under the snake’s weight, the ceiling collapsed and the snake fell into the room where the two boys were sleeping. “I don’t understand how it did it. It went through the ceiling…and the snake fell through the living room from the ceiling,” said Savoie in a phone interview to Global News.
News agencies initially reported that the 4.3-meter long snake had escaped from the exotic pet shop, Reptile Ocean, located below the flat and also owned by Savoie, but later police confirmed that it was kept in a floor-to-ceiling glass enclosure in the flat. After discovering the bodies the following morning, Savoie told Global News that he was still in a state of shock. “I can’t believe this is real“, he said. It turned out Savoie didn’t have the necessary permits to keep the snake and he’s now under police investigation.
Python Attack: What Caused the Snake to Target Kids?
Soon after the incident, the question in everyone’s mind was what might have caused the attack. Hunting seems the obvious answer, but “these snakes do not normally view humans as prey because of the variety of foreign smells we carry and the shape of our bodies,” said Cheryl Sheridan, Head Zookeeper at the Reptilia Zoo and Education Center in Toronto. But, “we do know the boys had been on an animal farm the same day, and may have had the smell of prey on them,” she added when speaking to Decoded Science.
However, there may have been other reasons for the attack. “Pythons do not constrict when trying to defend themselves, that is a feeding behavior only”, said Sheridan, “but it’s possible that the snake was instead trying to feel secure after being startled with the fall and grabbed whatever it landed on.”
Wild Animals as Pets: Should We Take Chances?
Every time accidents of this nature occur, they raise the same concerns about keeping wild animals as pets, including not only snakes and other reptiles, but many different exotic animals. Views from those against and in favor may seem contradictory at first, but both sides recognize particular needs associated with these species.