A band of exotic snakes that has set up home on the banks of a canal in north London is facing calls to be culled.
Over the last few weeks, 30 Aesculapian snakes, which can grow up to two metres in length, have been spotted up trees, rooftops and climbing the drains of houses around the Regent’s Canal area.
Thought to originate from Yugoslavia, the snakes have been known to eat large rats and birds – and their numbers now seem to be growing in the capital.
Now the species is being threatened after the London Invasive Species Initiative (LISI), government advisory quango, called for a cull of the snakes.
LISI manager, Karen Harper, told the Camden New Journal: “Aesculapian snakes species is listed in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 meaning it is illegal to allow the species to spread or escape into the wild.
“At present there is limited information on what affects the species may have on our local ecosystems.”
Aesculapians are known for loving milder temperatures than most other reptiles and usually find their homes along river beds or streams. There are many theories as to how the snakes first got to living on the banks of Regent's Canal. One popular tale is that they were released by the Inner London Education Authority as part of a secret scientific experiment.
Tales of snakes being spotted around the Regent’s Canal area began in the 1990s, but it was not until the head keeper of reptiles at London Zoo spotted one that they were confirmed as the Aesculapian.
Ecologists have criticised the plans, claiming the colony of snakes should be ‘preserved.’