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Posted by W von Papinešu on September 11, 2002 at 19:09:25:
DAILY RECORD (Glasgow, UK) 06 September 02 Alex Says Hiss Fond Farewells - Pet python Big Snakey is off to a new home in the sun (Steven Ventura)
Itís never easy to say goodbye to a pet, especially when it is a 14-stone slitherer that's wrapped around your neck.
But Alex Knapp was on hand to say farewell to his Burmese python as it left for a new life overseas.
Alex, 32, from Perth, said: "He just got too big. I've had him for 13 years and was devastated to give him up, but it was in the best interests of the snake.
"I've kept and bred snakes for 16 years and only one has ever died on me. I was never going to put Big Snakey down. How could I after all those years?"
The Reptile Trust Visitor and Re-homing Centre in County Durham came to the rescue and found a zoo in the Algarve who were happy to take the 16-foot reptile. Alex, who works in a pet shop, said: "Zoos have better facilities and he'll get a level of care no private keeper could give."
Alex travelled to the home of the charity to wave off Big Snakey as he made his way to Manchester Airport.
He said: "When the Trust first told me they would take the snake I had second thoughts. I had the declaration form to sign him over but it took me about two hours before I could bring myself to do it."
Alex had already been faced with the prospect of losing Big Snakey and the rest of his collection six years ago.
He said: "When I was living with my ex and young daughter, she told me to get rid of all my snakes. She said it was dangerous.
"I was devastated. I had 42 snakes at that time and had cared for many for years. So I had to leave and take the snakes with me.
"It was very unfair for her to make me choose and because I left I have only seen my daughter once since then."
Alex consoles himself with the hobby he has had since he was 16. In that time he has helped to re-home many snakes which people have been unable to look after.
His advice to the Pets At Home store's reptile department in Perth led to the firm offering him a job managing it.
His reputation has seen him keep lizards, scorpions and spiders. But it has also led to one or two strange incidents.
He said: "I found a box at the front door and inside was a snake I didn't recognise.
"I decided not to get too close until the authorities arrived. They later told me the snake was potentially deadly. I have been offered tiny crocodiles, but you would have to be mad to keep something like that."
Many people would think Alex was mad to keep a giant python with 200 sharp teeth and the ability to suffocate a man to death.
But he said: "I find the stories where pythons killed their owners hard to believe. Big Snakey bit me twice and each time it was my own fault.
"I fed him a rabbit once a week. And sometimes he would get treats like a rat, chicken, duck, pheasant, goose or quail. You buy them frozen, let them thaw out and just pop them into the tank."
Big Snakey lived in a shed outside Alex's flat. But before the outhouse was specially converted, he had the run of the house.
Alex said: "One day the heating system in his tank broke down and I couldn't get the company out to fix it until the next day. So I wrapped him in a duvet cover and brought him into my bed to sleep with me."
But the effort required to look after Big Snakey grew harder. It eventually took three people to lift him to the Trust's van.
Filled with emotion, Alex watched as his pet python was driven away to the airport. But he is already planning a visit next year to see how his old pal likes Portugal.
All creatures great and small
Having unusual pets has been popular for centuries.
Gerard de Nerval, a 19th century French author, had a pet lobster and could often be seen talking his collared crustacean for a jaunt around the gardens of the Palais-Royal.
He once said: "Why should a lobster be any more ridiculous than a dog or any other animal one chooses to take for a walk? I have a liking for lobsters. They are peaceful creatures."
More recently, a company in Florida sold hermit crabs as pets for £12. Each one was brightly decorated, complete with sunglasses or whiskers.
Many stars also have a penchant for weird pets. George Clooney has an 11-stone Vietnamese pig called Max while Guns 'n' Roses guitarist Slash has turned his home into a reptile house with 150 lizards and snakes.
And Windtalkers star Nicolas Cage has a shark and an octopus called Cool.
Closer to home, Scots actress Natalie Robb's favourite creature is her Mexican red-knee tarantula called Bertha.