PRISON authorities have been presented with their toughest ice addict ever - a two-metre long, hissing, snapping jungle python.
"He was totally on edge, jittery, slithering and wanting to strike," said senior overseer Ian Mitchell at the Corrective Services NSW Wildlife Care Centre in Windsor.
The slippery customer had been seized in a raid on a methamphetamine laboratory where it had absorbed the drug fumes and particles from the air as the ice was manufactured.
The result was two metres of very angry, aggressive snake delivered into the carefully gloved hands of the prison service's wildlife rehabilitation program.
"Normally these pythons can be a little bit snappy, they are constrictors and not poisonous, and they just lie around," he said.
"This one was very aggressive and had very erratic behaviour," said Mr Mitchell, who had the python "latched on" to his hand at one point.
Asked how he got his hand out, Mr Mitchell said; "Just quickly."
It took the python several weeks to work the drug out of its system during which time it could not settle and would be constantly moving around its heated container.
Seven months later the rehabilitated reptile has returned to normal and is now waiting for the case against the methamphetamine crew to go through the courts before being put into a ballot and resettled with new licensed owners in the community.
The Wildlife Centre based at the John Maroney Correctional Centre at Windsor has dealt with 40 snakes in the last year. They are the favoured pet of bikies who stash guns and drugs with them in their tanks.
"Some people do use various forms of reptile as a deterrent to stop people from accessing areas where they have been manufacturing and storing drugs," said Mr Mitchell.
The former ice-addicted python is regularly cared for by minimum security prisoner Minas Kassiotis, one of 14 convicted criminals who works in the Wildlife Care Centre.
"We care for all kinds of Australian wildlife here and it makes me proud to know that I am repaying my debt to society by doing something to sustain our wildlife," he said.
The centre takes all kinds of wildlife seized or rescued by authorities including kangaroos, possums, native birds and reptiles. It also rehabilitates venomous snakes including eastern brown and red bellied snakes that have been found in backyards or, in some cases, slithered through drains and into the prisons themselves.
Prison Governor Ivan Calder said the wildlife program also helped to rehabilitate the prisoners as well as the animals.
"The program provides them with a calming environment that can assist with reducing reoffending," he 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," he said.( Story The Lismo Echo)