When Australian police raided a crystal methamphetamine lab last year, they may have been expecting to seize kilos of narcotics, drug-making equipment and piles of cash.
The search uncovered something else: a 6ft-long jungle python showing visible signs of addiction. It had apparently absorbed drug fumes and particles through its skin.
Seven months later, the “very aggressive” snake has returned to normal behaviour under the care of 14 prisoners selected to work in a wildlife care programme.
It is one of about 250 animals cared for at a minimum-security prison in Sydney which houses kangaroos, wallabies, possums, wombats and native birds.
The John Morony Correctional Complex has also taken in a handful of other reptiles seized during police raids.
According to one of the correctional officers, some criminals use venomous snakes to protect hidden stashes of guns and drugs.
The jungle python “which cannot be named due to legal reasons” will be resettled with new owners once the court case against the alleged drug traffickers is over.
Prison governor Ivan Calder said the wildlife programme, which has been running for nearly 20 years, also helps rehabilitate inmates.
“What we see with the men in our care in their approach to animals is that it softens them and it humanises them,” he told the BBC.
“Giving the inmates the opportunity to care and take responsibility for animals is a major enabler in their rehabilitation and a major agent for behaviour change.”