DARTMOUTH - The curator of a local reptile zoo calls the death of two New Brunswick boys “a tragic accident.”
© Metro Halifax/Jeff Harper
Mike MacDonald, curator of the Maritime Reptile Zoo in Burnside, holds "Tiny", an albino Burmese Python for a photo on Tuesday.
Mike MacDonald, curator of the Maritime Reptile Zoo in Burnside, says the incident that transpired in Campbellton, N.B., is incredibly rare.
“This is definitely not the norm,” he said. “It’s an extremely isolated incident for one – let alone two – is just unprecedented.”
RCMP believe Noah and Connor Barthe were strangled by an African rock python on Monday after the snake escaped from its enclosure in the apartment. The snake got into the air ventilation system and then into the living room of the apartment and asphyxiated the boys while they slept.
Nova Scotia currently bans the import of seven species of snakes that can grow longer than three metres, including the African rock python. In some instances, a permit may be issued to people or businesses if they can demonstrate proper care of the snakes and have adequate facilities, such as MacDonald and the Maritime Reptile Zoo.
While no actual guidelines exist for the containment of large snakes, MacDonald says legislation isn’t necessary.
“If you have a dog you want to keep it secure,” he said. “It’s the same thing with reptiles. You want to have a secure enclosure, if not for your own safety but the safety of the animal.”
MacDonald says the Maritime Reptile Zoo regularly conducts inspections to ensure their animals are securely penned, and conducted an intense review on their holdings Tuesday.
“For our own peace of mind that we don’t have to walk in on a missing snake and for the public’s peace of mind that they don’t need to worry about a large snake on the loose, or even a small one,” he said.
While African rock pythons typically have nastier dispositions than other large snakes, MacDonald said every snake has its own personality and the public shouldn’t be too quick to generalize their behaviour.
“I’ve had African rock pythons that were a dream to handle – easy, no sign of defense, no sign of aggression whatsoever,” he said. “Then I’ve had other ones where it’s extremely defensive.”
The python in Campbellton has since been put down.
“Honestly, I would’ve done the same thing if I found out that one of my animals got out and killed somebody,” said MacDonald.
MacDonald says the demonizing of the snake stems from media and public speculation, even though some facts of the case have yet to be released.
“It’s not overly fair to the animal, but unfortunately that’s how it played out,” he said. “There’s two little boys that are also gone.”