NEWS

Python pet store yields 8 illegal, 1 endangered species

08/09/2013 08:19 EDT | Updated 10/09/2013 05:12 EDT
The African rock python that killed two boys in Campbellton, N.B., on Monday wasn't the only banned species found at the Reptile Ocean pet store, officials say.

At least eight other illegal animals and one endangered one were in the three-storey building, including the top-floor residence.

"There are some crocodilian species there, there are some alligators in there, and there are a couple of snakes that are in there," said Bruce Dougan, the manager of Moncton's Magnetic Hill Zoo, who is assisting the provincial Department of Natural Resources and the RCMP.

The reptiles were expected to be removed on Friday and relocated to accredited zoos. Deputy Mayor Ian Comeau said the team may need some city equipment, such as a loader and backhoe, to get some of the species out.

One of the crocodiles, for example, is about three metres long and weighs about 135 kilograms.

Will share coffin

Preliminary autopsy results on Noah Barthe, 4, and his brother Connor, 6, who were killed after the python escaped its enclosure, show they died from asphyxiation, RCMP said Wednesday.

A funeral is scheduled for Saturday. "The wish of the mother is that they be both buried together, in the same casket," because they were always inseparable, said the deputy mayor.

It's believed the python escaped through the top of a glass enclosure and into a ventilation system. The snake, which was 4.3 metres long and weighed about 45 kilograms, fell through the ceiling and into the living room of an apartment above the reptile store, where the two boys were sleeping.

They were there for a sleepover with the son of the shop owner, Jean-Claude Savoie.

Better monitoring needed

The tragedy has a national animal protection watchdog questioning how such a popular and visible reptile establishment managed to remain open with illegal animals and without the proper permits.

Although Reptile Ocean was a licensed zoo at one point, it later became a store, which had some illegal animals, including the African rock python that apparently strangled two boys on Monday after escaping an enclosure.

"I think … it comes down to the fact that we need well-placed, powerful political champions that decide yes, health care is important, and yes, jobs are important, but this is also an issue that's important, because it affects people and animals, which people value," said Rob Laidlaw, of Zoo Check.

CBC News has repeatedly asked for an interview with New Brunswick's Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup this week, but department staff have said the minister will not comment because of the RCMP investigation.

Department officials have said Reptile Ocean did not have a permit to have the African rock python, which is a banned snake in the province.

The department also had no knowledge of the existence of the python prior to this week’s tragedy, officials said.

Officers from the Department of Natural Resources, the RCMP and representatives from the Magnetic Hill Zoo were in an out of the shop all day on Thursday.

The building remains cordoned off with yellow police caution tape.

A shrine of teddy bears and other toys outside the store was removed on Thursday in anticipation of rain. The items will be donated to charity.

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