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An ice-addicted python is among hundreds of animals being rehabilitated at a NSW prison.
The jungle python was seized during a police raid of an ice lab where it had absorbed the drug through its skin, said Ian Mitchell, a senior overseer at the John Morony Correctional Complex in Berkshire Park.
He said the snake’s methamphetamine addiction made it more confused, erratic and aggressive than it would normally be and it needed six weeks of detoxification at the prison’s wildlife care centre.
“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.
Other animals that have been seized during police raids include bearded dragons and blue tongue lizards, he said.
Injured animals are also brought to the centre for rehabilitation from agencies, including the RSPCA.
“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,” Mr Mitchell said.
Turtles, wallabies, possums, kookaburras, emus, cockatoos and wombats are also among the about 250 animals housed in the prison at any one time.
Animals involved in court cases are put to a ballot once proceedings are complete and are rehabilitated, to be rehomed at another animal organisation or with owners who have the proper licenses.
Other animals are handed over to organisations including the RSPCA and National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Caring for wildlife ‘can help reduce reoffending’
But the wildlife centre is not just for rehabilitating animals.
About a dozen minimum-security prisoners participate in the program, caring for the animals and building shelters — with the chance to complete a certificate II in animal care.
“The program provides them with a calming environment that can assist with reducing reoffending,” outer metropolitan multi-purpose correctional centre governor Ivan 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.”
The prisoners clean and feed non-venomous reptiles, with only staff with specialist training handling and accessing the venomous snakes.
The snakes eat mice and rats, while other species prefer mealworms and crickets.