Pest control firm defends how workers caught python outside Tang Plaza

Pest control firm Anticimex, whose workers captured a 3m-long python outside Tang Plaza on Tuesday, has thanked the public for the concern and support for its employee who was injured in the incident.

Yesterday, the managing director and president of its Asian division, Mr Tony Hurst, said in a Facebook post that the employee, Farhan, had undergone a minor surgery to remove an embedded snake tooth and is recovering.

When contacted, the company declined to give Farhan's full name and personal particulars.

Mr Hurst also defended the way his workers tackled the snake after criticisms that they did not do it right. Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority had said it is investigating the matter after receiving feedback that the python was mishandled.

In his Facebook post, Mr Hurst said Tuesday's situation was "highly volatile and unpredictable" and required his workers to react quickly. "When the snake attempted to evade containment, not restraining the reptile by any means available could have had disastrous consequences in this busy and populated area."

He also defended his employee's decision to step on the python, saying "a foot is no different to a hand being used in an attempt to restrain a powerful animal... In fact, the human leg is stronger than the arm for this".

He added that the manager of the team that tackled the python was trained in snake-handling at the Singapore Zoo.

He said that even after their colleague was bitten, the team showed no "malice or cruelty" towards the snake, and their efforts were focused on preventing harm and containing the snake.

But veteran wildlife expert Subaraj Rajathurai, who has more than 25 years of field experience, said: "From the video, you can see the men did not respect the snake.

"They were just trying to assert their superiority over it. That's why a man got bitten. If you have a snake hook, as they did, and are trained, no one should get bitten."

Pointing out that workers in the zoo or the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) have never resorted to using their feet to capture a snake, Mr Subaraj said the Anticimex staff showed a lack of training and knowledge.

Acres deputy chief executive Kalai Vanan said the area should have been cordoned off and people kept further away from the reptile.

Wildlife experts said the snake was likely hunting for food when it unexpectedly emerged from the drainage system connected to a nearby canal. Snakes, which are shy, tend to slither around in drainage systems to stay hidden from people, Nature Trekker founder Ben Lee said.

Co-founder of the Herpetological Society of Singapore Sankar Ananthanarayanan said reticulated pythons are highly adaptable to urbanised environments.

Their presence in urban areas helps ensure "sewers don't get overrun with rats", he added. "Pythons are often thought of as pests, but in truth, they are more like biological pest control."

The experts also said pest control firms should not be called in to handle snakes. People should call Acres and give information on the snake, such as its length, thickness and colour or markings.

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