|Alisha-Mae gives the enormous python a friendly hug as her parents look on|
It is one of the world’s deadliest predators and is easily capable of swallowing a small child.
Two-year-old Alisha-Mae loves to have a cuddle with the snake – and her parents are more than happy for her to do so.
Burmese pythons, which squeeze their victims to death before eating them whole, have been pictured in the wild swallowing pigs, deer and even alligators.
But for Rob Cowan and his fiancée Stacey, such a creature is just part of the family. In fact, the couple, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, have 19 snakes, of which this enormous python, called Austin, is the biggest.
|Mr Cowan, 35, said the eight-year-old reptile – who at 13 stone weighs more than he does – is a ‘gentle giant’|
Mr Cowan, 35, said the eight-year-old reptile – who at 13 stone weighs more than he does – is a ‘gentle giant’ who loves lounging around in the back garden.
‘People can’t believe how friendly and docile he is,’ he added.
‘He really is one of the family. Every night when Alisha-Mae and her [ten-month-old] brother Cameron go to bed, we first go into the snake room to say good night to all the snakes and Austin last of all as he is their favourite.’
While most of the family’s snakes eat mice or rats, Austin and a 14ft female anaconda need a little more to fill them up and are fed rabbits and guinea pigs.
Mr Cowan insisted that snakes make good pets, saying: ‘It’s careless owners that give them a bad reputation.
‘Most of the snakes in the pet trade have lovely temperaments and are great to hold, but if you have an owner who never gets them out of their cage then the snake will not get used to being handled.’
He said bites are rare, adding defiantly: ‘All animals can bite – hamsters are renowned for biting.’
Klare Kennett, of the RSPCA, said snake owners should be ‘extremely careful around children’, adding: ‘We would certainly not advise leaving children unsupervised with a large Burmese python. Large snakes can kill small children.’
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