Two boys killed by rock python, Africa's biggest snake

TWO Canadian brothers aged five and seven have been strangled to death by a 15ft African snake that escaped from its cage.

Connor and Noah Barth were enjoying a Sunday night sleepover in an apartment above an exotic pet store in New Brunswick when the 100lb rock python, which is non-venemous and kills by constricting its victims, fell from the ceiling. It had apparently worked its way through the building's ventilation system.

The store – Reptile Ocean - in Campbellton, New Brunswick, is owned by Jean-Claude Savoie. The boys were next-door neighbours staying over with Savoie's son, and sleeping in his living-room.

"My body is in shock. I don't know what to think," Savoie told Global News. When he entered the living-room on Monday morning he thought the two boys were still sleeping until he saw a hole in the ceiling.

"I turned the lights on and I [saw] this horrific scene. [The python] went through a ventilation system. I don't understand how it did it. It went through the ceiling."

The store was once a small zoo but is now run as a shop where customers can buy several species of exotic animals including crocodiles, tarantulas, tortoises and snakes. It's claimed the snake was not for sale but was a pet of Savoie's. Some early reports suggest it was kept in a cage in the apartment and not in the store itself.

The python was subsequently caught by Savoie and handed over to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The rock python – python sebae - is the largest snake in Africa, often reaching 20ft in length. Its ability to swallow antelopes and even crocodiles has given it a fearsome reputation.

In 2009, the National Geographic ran an article about the increasing number of rock pythons turning up in Florida. Six had been discovered in the Sunshine State since 2002.

Kenneth Krysko, of the Florida Museum of Natural History, described the snake as "so mean, they come out of the egg striking… this is just one vicious animal." He speculated that pet breeders must have released the snakes after being shocked by their ferocity.

Also in 2009, the BBC reported the case of a Kenyan farm worker who was dragged up a tree by a 13ft rock python. Ben Nyaumbe bit the snake on its tail and then used his shirt to smother its head to prevent his being swallowed during a three-hour struggle that ended only when police arrived to rescue him. · 

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