HE WAS a slithering stowaway who might have sparked hiss-teria. In a scene that could have come straight out of a recent Hollywood horror comedy, a snake managed to hitch a ride from Mexico to Scotland aboard a transatlantic flight.
The young reptile somehow found his way into the passenger cabin of a Thomas Cook flight bound for Glasgow while it was waiting to take off from Cancun, but he was not spotted until after it touched down on Scottish soil.
In the Samuel L Jackson film Snakes on a Plane, a crate full of deadly snakes wreak havoc on a passenger flight. Fortunately, there was only unwanted passenger on the plane to Glasgow. It was just 18in long and, although it was capable of inflicting a bite, it was not venomous.
Staff clearing the plane after the 5,000-mile, ten-hour trip found it under a row of seats and contacted animal rescue experts from the Scottish SPCA.
Having been able to coax the snake into a box before passing it on to the SSPCA, the stowaway is now being cared for at the organisation’s Glasgow Animal Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Cardonald.
In honour of his stealth-like abilities, the snake has been renamed Furtivo, which means “sneak” in Spanish, and it is hoped he will find a new home here in his adopted homeland.
Billy Linton, a senior SSPCA inspector with more than 30 years’ experience as a zookeeper, said airport staff had been “remarkably calm” considering the nature of the discovery.
He said: “We have had the snake examined by a vet and, although we can’t be 100 per cent certain, we believe he is of the dryadophis family, which are commonly referred to as American smooth-scaled racers.
“Racers aren’t venomous, but, like all snakes, they can bite and Furtivo is very feisty. Although small, he is still a juvenile and has a lot of growing to do.
“The staff at Glasgow airport remained remarkably calm when faced with what must have been a rather unwelcome passenger. I can only imagine that Furtivo managed to sneak his way on to the plane while it was waiting to take off in Cancun, although it is also possible he has hitched a lift in someone’s hand luggage.”
Praising the response of Mr Linton and his colleagues, a Thomas Cook spokeswoman said: “Luckily, finding unwanted visitors on aeroplanes is a very rare occurrence, and we’re grateful there were no passengers on board when a harmless friend was discovered on one of ours. We’d like to thank our crew and the SSPCA for looking after him.”
Furtivo is now making himself at home in Scotland, with the charity hopeful of finding him a new owner.
“Furtivo will remain in our care until we can find him an expert home with someone who has the necessary experience and knowledge to be able to look after such a creature,” Mr Linton said.
While the stowaway prompted surprise among airport staff, Mr Linton said it was far from uncommon to find creatures from far-flung lands aboard flights arriving in Scotland. “We have rescued several exotic creatures from international flights, including scorpions, spiders, turtles and even giant land snails, so this isn’t as unusual as many people might think,” he said.
This was not the first discovery of a snake at the airport in Scotland’s biggest city. A decade ago, a woman bound for the Netherlands from the United States was stopped and found to be wearing a snake belt that turned out to be alive.