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Saturday 20 January 2018

Tiny snake grounds Aussie jumbo jet

Qantas taff found the 8in Mandarin rat snake in the passenger cabin near the door
Qantas taff found the 8in Mandarin rat snake in the passenger cabin near the door

Hundreds of passengers were grounded for the night after a tiny Asian snake was found on a Qantas Boeing 747 airliner in Australia.

Staff found the 8in Mandarin rat snake in the passenger cabin near the door before the 370 passengers were due to board the flight to Tokyo from Sydney International Airport, Qantas said.

Australia's flagship airline said passengers were given hotel rooms and left Sydney on a replacement plane. Qantas said the original jet would be fumigated before returning to service in case there were other snakes on board. The snake was taken by quarantine officials for analysis.

The Agriculture Department said the snake, a species that grows to an average of 4ft, had been put down "as exotic reptiles of this kind can harbour pests and diseases not present in Australia".

The department said the snake had arrived aboard the jet in a flight a day earlier from Singapore. "The Department of Agriculture is looking into how the snake came to be on the plane, but isn't able to speculate at this time," it said.

The mildly venomous Asian snake was about the width of a pencil and did not pose a threat to humans, but it had the potential to cause ecological havoc in the Australian environment if it had escaped the plane with a mate, Canberra Reptile Zoo herpetologist Peter Child said.

While snakes rarely pose aviation hazards, a 10ft python clung to the wing of a Qantas flight from north-east Australia to Papua New Guinea in January. The python died during the flight but was still attached to the wing when the two-hour journey ended.

Separately, a New York animal control officer found with more than 850 snakes at his Long Island home is searching for a new shelter for the reptiles.

A lawyer for Richard Parrinello said his client is seeking a commercially-zoned building that can shelter the snakes and is planning to submit a proposal to the town of Brookhaven for the snakes' removal by the end of the week.

Authorities removed two 6ft Burmese pythons from Mr Parrinello's garage last week. Burmese pythons are illegal to own in New York state without a permit. Most of the other 850 snakes found on his property are legal but officials said he broke local rules by operating his reptile-sales business without a permit.

Press Association

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