Snakes from former Yugoslavia that are allegedly capable of crushing children to death are causing alarm in a plush part of central London.
It is hard to imagine cold, wet London being a very comfortable home to exotic reptiles.
But, according to the London Independent, at least 30 tree-climbing Aesculupian snakes, which hail from the Balkans and can grow up to two metres in length, have been spotted in recent weeks in the Regent’s Canal area, which adjoins London Zoo.
The snakes ‘have been known to attack small dogs and their numbers now seem to be growing’, the newspaper observed.
Some local residents have voiced fears that the snakes could come into their homes and strangle their children.
Sylvia Taylor, 33, told the Daily Star newspaper: ‘If they are capable of killing small animals then surely they could constrict small children?’
The origin of the snakes is unknown. London Zoo has a large reptile house but escapes are far from common.
One bizarre theory doing the rounds in the area is that they were released by the Inner London Education Authority, ILEA, as part of a secret scientific experiment.
While the long abolished ILEA should have been experimenting with reptiles is not clear. The education authority was best known for its hard-left politics before being abolished by the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher.
‘Invasions’ by deadly foreign wildlife are a popular item of the UK newspapers. Tabloids regularly scare readers with stories about killer bees, giant hornets, deadly spiders and malarial mosquitoes heading this way from the Europe and beyond.
Some ‘invasions’ have undoubtedly occurred, however. Exotic green parrots now roost in large numbers in trees all over London as a result of escapes way back in the 1970s. London’s canals and ponds are also home these to a large number of turtles that lazy owners dumped when they grew too big to keep. None of these invaders poses much danger to humans, however.
Meanwhile, not all Londoners are panicked by the thought of eight-foot-long snakes coiled up in the trees above their heads.
One wrote in to an online forum devoted to the subject to say that if it was true that the Balkan snakes were devouring rats, ‘they are clearly doing a better job [in pest control] than the local authorities’.