Snake found at Manzanilla Secondary School

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Although the boa constrictor is non-poisonous, the snake has two rows of teeth and can give a powerful bite.
– Photo by Marvin Hamilton

Students and staff at the Manzanilla Secondary School were thrown into turmoil when a macajuel boa constrictor was found in the ceiling of the assembly hall on Wednesday. The snake was estimated to be at least ten feet long and six inches in diameter.

Health and Safety Officer Marcell Thomas said students were the first to discover the snake when they entered the school.

“The students would have arrived around 6:30, 7 am, and would have seen it first. When staff members started to arrive, they brought it to my attention. It was in the ceiling of the hall area and would have entered the building through a hole in the ceiling.

“When I arrived, it was partially outside on the roof of the building, but it went back in when the greater population of the school started to arrive. It didn’t move or come back out. When I came, it was going back in but I estimated it was at least six feet or longer.”

He said the students were excited and fascinated, as for many of them it would have been the first time seeing a snake in real life.

“It wasn’t ground level, so I don’t think they were frightened by it, more fascinated.”

Thomas said he contacted organisations in El Socorro and Cumuto and was put on to someone closer to the area by a game warden who returned his calls. He said the Hunters Search and Rescue Team, led by Captain Vallence Rambharat, would come to remove the snake later that day.

Reptile Conservation Centre of TT CEO, herpetologist Saiyaad Ali said the snakes were native to TT, Central and South America.

“The largest recorded snake found between TT and South America in the late 1099s was 18.5 feet in length but the average length is 12-13 feet.

“It’s a protected species in TT. The macajuel is the second largest snake in TT and eats small mammals like agouti, lappe, manicou, as well as birds. Usually, it bites the animal to hold it while constricting around it, and when the animal has suffocated, it eats it headfirst.”

He said sometimes the snakes are kept as pets by those who are licenced to do so and are fed rabbits, white mice and white rats.

Ali said the snakes live in forested areas and cultivated areas close to forested areas. He said the snake may have gone into the school because it was looking for prey.

“There are forests in the area, and with it being the dry season, prey might be difficult to acquire. In those circumstances, they tend to wander into areas where there is human habitation.

“The school is built in a habitat area for wildlife, so it is expected there would be some wildlife encounters from time to time. I always say it’s not that the wildlife is trespassing; it’s we who are because they were here first.”

Up to press time, the Hunters Search and Rescue Team was still on site assessing the situation.