Jean-Claude Savoie, the owner of the python that the RCMP says killed two boys in northern New Brunswick earlier this week, did government officials a favour by taking in the animal and several others, a former employee told Global News.
According to Marc Doiron, officials routinely brought seized reptiles to Savoie’s store, Reptile Ocean, when they were unable to facilitate care for them.
Doiron said he worked at Reptile Ocean for six months in total, in 2001 and 2002.
He told Global News that officials also brought a Cuban crocodile to Reptile Ocean sometime in 2001 or 2002.
WATCH: Endangered species discovered at Reptile Ocean
It’s believed that’s one of the 16 animals that Department of Natural Resources officials are preparing to remove from the Campbellton exotic pet store.
Now a snake breeder, Doiron said the crocodile was seized at Moncton airport and officials brought it to Reptile Ocean because it was the only facility capable of taking care of it.
“All kinds of government had to get [involved] because of the rarity and endangered status of this animal,” he explained.
He said Savoie was more or less “babysitting” the animals for the government because they didn’t have the proper means to manage them.
Doiron said Savoie is now being “hung out to dry” and being blamed for having the deadly snake on his property.
Global News contacted Environment Canada for comment on Doiron’s statement.
Environment Canada spokesperson Mark Johnson confirmed in an email Thursday evening that the agency seized the crocodile in 2002 following an investigation that took place in N.B. and Alberta.
“The crocodile was placed with Reptile Ocean in June 2002 as it was operating as a zoo in the province of New Brunswick. Environment Canada places seized live animals in facilities for care under long-term loan agreements,” Johnson said.
He did not provide details about the long-term loan agreements.
Johnson also confirmed to Global News on Wednesday that Environment Canada officials brought the African rock python to Savoie in 2002, after it was dropped off anonymously at the local SPCA.
RCMP believe the 45-kilogram snake escaped from a glass enclosure in Savoie’s apartment, above the store, asphyxiating six-year-old Connor Barthe and his four-year-old brother Noah while they slept in the living room.
“You have to understand than a man does not come across these animals just because he wants them,” Doiron said. “The government was in step every step of the way with him.”
He said Savoie often took in animals that no one else wanted or were considered a danger to public safety.
“No one can look at me with a straight face and say they didn’t know he had what he had. It can’t be done,” Doiron said.
“We have to stop looking at him as this guy who owns too many snakes. We have to look at him as a guy who provided an amazing public service,” he added.
RCMP investigators are still trying to determining whether they will lay charges in the case.
A funeral service for the boys is scheduled for Saturday.
VIDEO: Investigation ongoing into the deaths of two NB boys killed by a python (August 7)
Meanwhile, the manager of a New Brunswick zoo says officials are preparing to remove more than a dozen animals from the building housing Savoie’s store and apartment.
Bruce Dougan, the manager of the Magnetic Hill Zoo in Moncton, N.B., says it could take two days to safely remove 16 animals and put them into crates.
Dougan, who has been inside Reptile Ocean, said there are four large American alligators, six crocodiles, some tortoises, turtles and snakes in the shop.
He said the tortoises will be going to his zoo, while the rest of the animals seized will be taken to the Indian River Reptile Zoo in Indian River, Ont.
But as of late afternoon Thursday, officials had not yet begun removing any of the animals. Dougan said it would likely take the rest of Thursday and most of Friday before the reptiles could be completely removed from the premises.
The snake was seized by RCMP on Monday and destroyed.
*With files from Laura Brown, Christina Stevens, Shelley Steeves and The Canadian Press
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