The exotic pet shop in New Brunswick, Canada, where a snake killed two young boys, has become a crime scene.
The African rock python which had been kept in an enclosure by its owner, escaped through a ventilation shaft and crashed through the ceiling where the boys – Noah and Connor Barthe – had been sleeping in a flat above the shop.
Investigators are looking into whether the python’s owner had cared for it responsibly.
“This is a major tragedy for the family,” said Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. Alain Tremblay. “As far as we are concerned it’s a criminal investigation because people have lost their lives. That’s why we are studying the situation in the normal way even if we are dealing with a possible act of a reptile.”
Postmortems were due to be being carried out on the boys, who were aged four and six.
The incident has puzzled snake experts such as Karim Daoudes who owns a reptile shop in Paris. African rock pythons, he claimed, would not normally attack humans.
“It’s not normal behaviour for an animal of this kind. Normally they only tend to seek out quiet environments, it is not in their nature to be aggressive.”
Another expert said African rock pythons do not normally view humans as food, adding that the snake must have been confused when it encountered the boys.
“A defensive attack, it would just be strike and release. They normally don’t constrict what they’re not going to eat,” said Bry Loyst, curator of the Indian River Reptile Zoo near Peterborough, Ontario, which has an African rock python on display.
The pet-shop owner claims to have had the four-metre-long python for at least 10 years. It is illegal to own such a snake in the province of New Brunswick and it has now been destroyed.
The boys were at a sleepover at the apartment, above the Reptile Ocean exotic pet store in Campbellton, a city of about 7,500 in Canada’s maritime province of New Brunswick.
Initial reports said the snake escaped from the store into the residence, but police later clarified that it was being held in a glass enclosure in the same apartment as the two children.
“(The enclosure) went right up to the ceiling, but inside there was a small hole that was connected to the ventilation system,” said Sgt. Tremblay.