A group of Sunderland firefighters made a chilling discovery when they opened a Buzz Lightyear pillowcase that had been dumped behind their fire station this February. The pillowcase was filled with 13 live royal python snakes, including several rare and expensive morphs – and had been left in a bin.
The snakes were quickly passed to the RSPCA, who arranged for them to be seen by a vet, who confirmed that all but one of the pythons were in good health. Sadly, the 13th python died. The rest of the snakes were then taken to a specialist holding centre in Newcastle and the RSPCA began inquiries into how the snakes had come to be dumped.
But the strange events in Sunderland were not yet over – as just two days later another two pillowcases were found in the very same bin, this time containing fifteen corn snakes and yet another royal python. The unsettling discoveries have left reptile experts both disgusted and totally baffled.
Snake expert Alec Wood, who works for a reptile rehoming rescue centre, told the BBC:
Any normal decent person has a mix of horror and shock. It's an act of cruelty, and none of us like to see that happen to any animal. It paints the hobby in a bad light, a very bad light.
Experts can’t understand why somebody would have abandoned the snakes – some of which were very valuable – nor how somebody could have had so many in the first place without being known to other people in the small world of the UK’s ‘reptile community’. One theory has even suggested that the abandonment of the snakes was a stunt to make people who keep snakes as pets look bad.