Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Python Kills Two Boys: Why, How, and Snake Attack History.

It is the stuff of nightmares. A 100-pound, 14 foot African rock python, which was being kept as a house pet  
US Army Africa CC BY 2.0 Via Flickr
as new reports reveal, escaped from its cage and into the ventilation system of the apartment in which it lived and killed two sleeping children after falling through the ceiling above them. It happened in Campbellton, New Brunswick, Canada.

The boys (4 and 6 years old), whom were sleeping over at the home of a friend, died of constriction, however the necropsy reports for both the kids and the snake (to see what may have been a factor in the attack) *haven’t come back yet at this time. The snake, which the owner has possessed for at least 10 years, was euthanized after the tragedy.

 Many snake experts are scratching their heads. It is entirely abnormal for a large snake to subdue not one, but two oversized ‘prey items’.
*Autopsy report 
“It’s ridiculous. I can’t believe this is real.” said Reptile Ocean Inc. owner  Jean-Claude Savoie.

Pictures of the boys cleaning the snake cage

For some reason, the media has decided to sensationalize a “shocking photo” of the young victims cleaning the cage of the snake that killed them prior to the incident. The snake appears to not be present in the picture. Why is this shocking? 
Like shows such as Animal Planet’s Fatal Attractions (I’m sure their people are calling around trying to get people to talk to about this incident already), the object is to present this story as some inevitable tail of horror due to negligent, crazed exotic pet owners. As for whether or not the owner should be held accountable is still pending, but it is easy to forget the thousands of large snake owners who’ve had no problems nor will then in the future.

How did this happen?

There are many possible explanations being given from various reptile behaviorists. We know that snakes only constrict for food and not self-defense, therefore it is presumed that the animal must have been hungry. However, one herpetologist proposed that the snake may have been spooked from the fall and clung onto whatever it fell on. Others suggest that since the boys had spent time around prey animals at a family farm, the snake may have abnormally mistaken them for food. Fatalities from large constrictor snakes have occurred in the past, but are rare.

Deaths from captive pythons

No matter which way you spin it, death by captive constrictor snakes, despite their widespread popularity as pets, are not common by any means. However, the exotic pet community suffers greatly even when these isolated incidents occur no more than once annually, compared to around 30 fatal incidents from domesticated dogs (and immeasurable injuries) alone. 

Rexano has graciously listed every single fatality from these animals within the years of 1990 to 2012. Only 10 people have been killed by pet snakes during this time frame. In addition, ZERO of these fatalities occurred to members of the public that were not involved with the snake in question (translation: you will not be killed in your sleep by someone else’s choice of pet). 

The incident in Canada was no exception, as the boys’ guardians allowed contact and accepted these very small risks. Negligence certainly also plays a role in large snake fatalities, because these incidents, as the statistics show, are entirely preventable and not likely to occur from the start. Big snakes like these however should never be given the opportunity to escape.

Ban large pythons as pets?

Once again the exotic pet community is faced with ‘weird death syndrome’, which I’ve outlined in this article. People are not concerned with death alone, but fatalities associated with practices that confuse, bother, or outrage them. It is already very easy to be offended by the ownership of snakes—I’ve milled through comment after exclaiming “WHY DO PEOPLE NEED TO OWN THESE THINGS!? “ from snake-o-phobes and borderline animal rights activists alike. Snakes, next to spiders, are probably one of the most (irrationally) feared animals and most people don’t even like to look at them, save own one. But many people are fascinated by snakes as others are with puppies. 

While said puppies grow up to become members of a species that have killed more people, owners of snakes do not get reptiles because they want a pet that will cuddle with them and play fetch, but a unique, interesting (not to mention, low maintenance) pet they can simply marvel at. Pythons thrive and have sufficient well-being in captivity.

The Humane Society of the United States is a prominent animal rights organization that uses ever rare incident that occurs in North America to try and shut down any part of the pet trade it can. Here is their newest effort

This comes as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with the philosophy of this organization. They have no interest in public safety, but use it to support their goal of animal liberation. Regardless, tragedies like what occurred in Canada are undeniably, utterly rare.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Should SeaWorld be Shut Down? Animal Rights in Full Swing.

Recently I have written an article entitled The Stupidity of the Blackfish Trailer: Anti-Seaworld Documentary. Excuse the hyperbole of that description, but I have been following anti-cetacean captivity sentiment and the resulting arguments since last summer, and certain aspects of it cause me certain distress. Now, I didn’t expect this article to make an impression, no, I presumed it would die a swift death view-wise with maybe one share from one of my few followers on Hubpages which would garner it some limited attention with pro zoo-minded individuals. Instead, however, this thing has become my most viewed article by far. I’ve gotten some praise, but the response was mostly overwhelmingly negative. Many posts called me an idiot, ignorant, and I even got one racist comment referencing the film’s title. Amusing stuff.


Regardless, SeaWorld is amassing heaps of negative backlash these days. Seaworld is mostly attempting to ignore its hellish July, including the release of the well-reviewed documentary Blackfish, two controversial Youtube videos showing alleged neglect of beached dolphins, and sold out copies of David Kirby’s Death at Seaworld on Amazon UK. Many animal rights activists are jumping for joy.


Now let me be clear on one particular thing. Being against the captivity of orca whales in no way inherently makes a person a supporter of animal rights, and by animals rights I mean animal liberation, which is an end to the use of animals for any form of human benefit. There are irrefutable issues that captive killer whales face which I consistently acknowledge, such as in this article (regardless of the title). I believe that social strife is the biggest issue with captive orcas, and the relatively small tanks exacerbate the problem (oracs unable to flee or resolve conflict). This is something that we can easily offer most land animals in zoos.


Britt Reints CC BY 2.0


I have spoken to many zoo supporters (and zoo workers even) who expressed that orca whales do not belong in captivity because they are simply too large for us to accommodate.


Completely fair observation. But.


The captivity of killer whales being such a hot button issue opens the door for more severe animals rights movements to push their philosophies and future plans such as the Non-Human Rights Movement, a movement that is being promoted to legislators by individuals like Dr. Lori Marino, who constantly shows up in anti-captivity documentaries and news stories to pretend she is merely an objective, well-respected neurologist.


 It is amazing how killer whale captivity can make people unwittingly profess validity to pure animal rights ideology.


Take for instance, the viral video posted by Youtube user Carlo De Leonibus. He claims to be a recent ex-Seaworld supporter after his trip to the aquatic zoo for his daughter’s birthday left him witness to a distressed, beached, pilot whale (of which an anti-captivity ex-Seaworld worker has said was “in no physical danger) that did not receive assistance for 30 minutes. This user is now actively advertising for anti-Seaworld efforts such as Death at Seaworld and The Cove, and appears to have morphed full swing into an anti-captivity activist like a perfect fantasy for people of this mindset. His video is now on an ‘approved comment’ setting (a recommendation from PETA and the HSUS?).


One particular thing caught my eye. On PETA’s video of another dolphin lying on the ground, this user made this comment:

“This is so sad. I am glad you guys got this video and posted. Another reason why animals do not belong in captivity.


Now animals do not belong in captivity? Animals, not just orcas, dolphins, and cetaceans. I don’t believe this was a slip of the keyboard. To be frank, I’m highly suspicious of the convenience that this scenario provides for animal rights efforts, but I’m evidenceless, so I’m not getting into that.


Based on what I’m seeing, activists have turned a once ‘ignorant’ SeaWorld customer into a full-fledged animal rights supporter who is now praising PETA and pushing anti-captivity rhetoric to the public. The fact simply remains that many animals thrive in captivity, and others do reasonably well, regardless of not having ‘freedom’. I can easily cite (and I frequently do) the many conflicts of the universally accepted captivity of animals like dogs and existence of any animal, including those in nature, is 100% rosy. 


Sue Talbert (CC BY-ND 2.0)


Animal captivity, whether it is pets or zoos, is not a simplistic subject by any means. Does an unexplained video of a dolphin lying on the ground ‘prove’ that no animals should be in human care? That logic is not valid.

Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite has said that she doesn’t want SeaWorld to be shut down, but that she wants it to change. If she is being honest, I agree (as long as these changes don’t include converting SeaWorld into a museum with non-live animals). But her film (and other sources) seems to be promoting anti-captivity rhetoric that is damaging, misleading, and overtly, and perhaps intentionally, simplistic. 

People need to not lose sight of exactly what we’re dealing with here due to the captivity of 45 animals. They are certainly not the only animals whose welfare needs addressing, yet such issues can be considered without caving to animal rights ideology (this is why I chose to comment on the trailer). In addition, SeaWorld should be more forward with some of their inevitable non-successes…all zoos have them. The captivity of orca whales is a little over 50 years old, and we have yet to see what the future will bring.