On Monday, August 5, 2013, a 15 foot, 100 pound exotic African rock python escaped from its enclosure and killed two brothers, Noah Barthe, age 4, and Connor Barthe, age 6, while they slept. Originally, it was believed that the snake escaped from Reptile Ocean exotic pet store in Campbellton, located in the province of New Brunswick, Canada. The store is beneath the apartment where both boys were staying; however, it was just learned today that the reptile was being kept in that same apartment.
According to Royal Canadian Mounted Police sergeant Alain Tremblay, “the snake was housed in a large enclosure that reached the ceiling of the apartment and escaped through a small hole in the ceiling connected to the ventilation system”. Apparently, the piping the snake was traveling across collapsed and it landed into the room where the two brothers were sleeping.
The exotic pet industry is a multi-million dollar industry worldwide. The Humane Society of the United States reports that it is a $15 million dollar industry in the United States alone. In addition, many animals found in the exotic pet trade typically are wild caught as babies rather than being captive breed. In many circumstances, exotic pet owners are not well equipped to handle the animal once it grows up.
Born Free USA offers visitors to their website a chance to search a database of exotic animal incidents within the United States. According to this resource, in the past 10 years alone, there have been a total of 469 reported incidents involving exotic reptiles. Out of this total, 48 involved human injuries and 11 involved human death.
Preliminary autopsies on the children indicate that both died from asphyxiation. It has also been confirmed that the python was killed by a veterinarian and its remains sent off for a necropsy to confirm the type of snake it was and to try and determine why it behaved the way it did.
One explanation being talked about is the smell the boys may have had on them at the time of the attack and how hungry or startled the snake was. Family spokesman Dave Rose said that the young children spent the day on Monday playing with llamas, goats, horses, dogs and cats before staying at the apartment. John Kendrick, a manager at the Reptile Store in Hamilton, Ontario said:
“…if pythons are startled, they can grab something for stability, and it's possible that the python was just holding on to what it landed on…Once they are in constricting mode, any part of their body that is touching something that moves, they'll wrap it,…I've seen snakes with two different prey items at the same time, one with the back of the body and one with the front. It could have been an incident like that."
The provincial Natural Resources Department announced that the owner of the pet store did not have a “permit for the African rock python. The department said the snake is generally only permitted in accredited zoos, unless there is a special permit.” At this time, the New Brunswick Government is seeking help in relocating other exotic animals found at the pet store to accredited zoos. A criminal investigation is currently underway.
Please join me on Facebook. If you would like to receive alerts when future articles are published on Wildlife Headlines, please subscribe here. And please do not hesitate to comment or leave suggestions.