A Mandarin rat snake (Elaphe mandarina) grounded a Qantas 747 jet over the weekend in Sydney, after it was found in the cabin of the airliner bound for Tokyo from Sydney. The snake was just 8 inches in length and no thicker than a pencil, officials with Australian Agriculture Department told ABC News International. Nonetheless, the snake was euthanized and the entire plane was fumigated in an effort to ensure no other snakes were alive on the plane. The officials said the snake was discovered after the jet landed from a flight from Singapore.
Mandarin rat snake. Photo by Australian Department of Agriculture
The snake was not a threat to humans, but if it escaped into the wild in Australia, it would have the potential to wreak havoc on the ecology of the country, Canberra Reptile Zoo herpetologist Peter Child told ABC. This is the second incident involving airplanes and snakes in Australia. In January, a scrub python was found clinging to life under a wing of a Qantas flight to Papua New Guinea. It didn't survive the flight.
Mandarin rat snakes grow to about four feet in length and can be found in China, India, Southeast Asia and Taiwan. They feed on small rodents and can be found from sea level to more than 3000 meters. The snake's coloration is generally yellow and black with some red and beige scales mixed in. They are widely imported from China and Hong Kong.