Issued: Tuesday 11 April 2017
From a jungle python coming off methamphetamine to an eastern brown found injured on the side of the road, staff and inmates at a prison in Sydney’s west are helping give reptiles another chance at life.
The python, which cannot be named due to legal reasons, was discovered during a police raid of an ice lab and required six weeks of detoxification while housed at the Corrective Services NSW Wildlife Care Centre in Windsor.
Senior Overseer Ian Mitchell, who has been managing the centre at the John Morony Correctional Complex for the past few years, said the reptile had absorbed the drug through its skin.
“It just takes time for the drug to leave the snake’s system but through our assistance, we managed to calm it down after several months and bring it back to its routine feeding patterns,” Mr Mitchell said.
“We also currently house bearded dragons and blue tongue lizards seized during raids.
“Besides the reptiles associated with criminal cases, we rehabilitate venomous snakes like eastern browns and red bellies that might have been found in backyards or by the side of the road.”
Minimum-security inmates from the Outer Metropolitan Multi-Purpose Correctional Centre are carefully selected to participate in the program.
They feed and clean the reptiles, except the venomous ones, as well as rid them of worms and other illnesses and occasionally take them out of their enclosures to receive natural light.
The snakes generally feed on mice and rats while the other reptiles feed on meal worms and crickets.
Only CSNSW staff who have undergone specialist training can handle and access the venomous snakes.
The reptiles involved in court cases are put to a ballot following the completion of those legal cases so they can be re-housed at another animal-related organisation or placed with an owner with a reptile licence.
Following rehabilitation, other reptiles are handed to organisations including the RSPCA or National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Over the past year, around 40 snakes, 15 lizards, five turtles and a number of other animals have been cared for at the centre.
Outer Metropolitan Multi-Purpose Correctional Centre Governor Ivan Calder said the program allows around a dozen inmates to participate in a wide range of tasks including caring for the animals, building shelters and the opportunity of gaining a Certificate II in Animal Care.
“The program provides them with a calming environment that can assist with reducing reoffending,” Mr Calder said.
“It also allows gradual reintroduction to community contact as well as the reinforcement of the care and consideration of others, not just one’s self.
“There are also improvements in group interaction and self-motivation as the program provides a goal for the participants to achieve.”
At any one time there are around 250 animals, mainly birds, housed at the centre.