Swimmers find exotic python lurking outside lido

The stray snake was rescued by Hampstead Heath rangers

The stray snake was rescued by Hampstead Heath rangers - Credit: City of London Corporation

Swimmers were shocked to find a python loitering outside Parliament Hill Lido on Sunday.

The snake, thought to be around two-and-a-half feet, was found underneath tree cover near the entrance of the lido around 11.30am on October 24.

The python was caught, put into netting and then taken away in a pet carrier box during a rescue mission from rangers and officers that lasted around 30 minutes.

Eyewitness Michael Drakonakis, 25, said: “It’s not every day you see a python on your way to the Heath.   

“It’s the biggest one I have ever seen. The enthusiasm and bravery of the animal handlers would have made even Steve Irwin proud.” 

Adam King, 25, said: "I did a double take, at first I thought they might be releasing a hedgehog back into the wild. Then I realised it was a snake, probably the biggest I've ever seen outside of captivity.

"Huge credit to the animal handlers for dealing with the slippery character so calmly."

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It is not known whether the python was dumped near to the lido, if it had escaped or whether it had been living on the Heath.  

John Slapp, who was part of the rescue effort, said the “exotic, lovely looking” snake was “freezing” as it curled up to try and keep warm.  

“By the shape of it I could see it was a constrictor, not a venomous one,” the sports and recreation team leader said. “I thought ‘oh this is something new, you don't get one of these every day.’” 

The City of London Corporation says it was alerted to the snake by a member of the public, and that is working to rehome the python with animal welfare authorities.

Passer-by Adam King pointing to where the python was found

Passer-by Adam King pointing to where the python was found - Credit: Archant

In 2013 a seven-foot reticulated python was discovered dead in undergrowth at the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond enclosure behind a meadow. 

It is thought the latest snake discovery could also be a reticulated python, as suspected by one of the rangers during the rescue effort. 

Reticulated pythons are non-venomous constrictors. The species is native to South and Southeast Asia and they are the largest snakes in the world.  

Smaller grass snakes, meanwhile, are native to Hampstead Heath and sightings have been made in previous years.  

“You deal with many things on the Heath... you never know what's round the corner,” John said. 

“In the past I've had someone walking an iguana in Golders Hill Park, it was seen on a lead walking through the garden.  

“We had reports of a crocodile in a pond one time but it turned out to be an imitation.”