The 12-foot-long python named Conda safely in its new enclosure on Monday morning.
PHILIPSBURG--The 12-foot-long Burmese python named Conda, which was seized by authorities last week, has been saved from certain death and returned to owner Leo Wathey on Monday morning after a new enclosure was built for the animal in the past several days.
Last week, police officers accompanied by St. Maarten Nature Foundation removed the python that was kept in captivity as a family pet. The removal was ordered after a tip was received about a large snake recently seen in public.
The snake has been a family pet for more than 25 years, with Wathey having bought the animal from a local pet store back in the mid-1990s.
However, residents are currently prohibited from owning exotic animals without a permit, according to Article 29 of the General Police Ordinance. When Conda was taken from Wathey last week, he was given only two days to find suitable accommodations for the snake or else it would have been euthanized.
The snake’s previous enclosure was damaged in Hurricane Irma in 2017 and Wathey said the family had been meaning to rebuild the enclosure properly since then, but were unable to do so.
Wathey said last week that he hoped to have the animal sent abroad to save it from certain death. St. Maarten Nature Foundation Manager Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern also said at the time that the foundation was trying to assist Wathey in obtaining a Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species in wild flora and fauna (CITES) export permit.
There was sizeable public outcry about the snake’s removal and possible death after the story hit the front page of The Daily Herald and in the meantime Wathey contracted someone to build a new four- by two-metre enclosure for his beloved animal.
With a donation of lumber from some good Samaritans and the contractor’s expertise, Wathey managed to finish the new enclosure over the past several days, complete with steel mesh and panelling and galvanised roofing.
The Prosecutor’s Office was seemingly satisfied with the arrangements, and Conda was given back to Wathey on Monday morning in the presence of police.
This arrangement will last until Wathey has had time to obtain the proper government permits. He told this newspaper on Monday evening that he has contacted the Justice Ministry about applying for a permit and he is awaiting instructions about the process.
Wathey said he is happy to have Conda back home and promised to take good care of the animal. “I am content that it wasn’t euthanised,” he said. “We can’t just take away what God has created. Conda wants to live, to survive. It’s a creature just like me and you.”
He thanks the community for its support in helping him bring Conda home, and to authorities for their cooperation over the last week.
According to the Nature Foundation, the large python snake posed a high risk to the environment and to St. Maarten’s native species, and could have become invasive as it has no natural predators. “If the snake escapes or is (accidentally) released into the wild. Pythons can easily eat birds, mammals, other pets, or bite humans.”
The Burmese python is one of the world’s largest species of snake. It is native to a large area of Southeast Asia, but is found as an invasive species elsewhere, such as in the south Florida Everglades.