Snakes on planes aren’t just a horror found in Hollywood movies. A tiny exotic snake grounded a Qantas Boeing 747 airliner on Sunday.
Staff found the 20-centimeter (8-inch) Mandarin Rat Snake in the passenger cabin near the door before passengers were due to board the flight bound for Tokyo from Sydney International Airport, Qantas said in a statement.
The 370 passengers scheduled to board the flight were given hotel rooms overnight. Qantas said the original jet would be fumigated before returning to service in case there were other snakes on board.
The Agriculture Department said the snake, a species that grows to an average 1.2 meters (4 feet), had been euthanized, “as exotic reptiles of this kind can harbor pests and diseases not present in Australia.”
The department said the snake had arrived aboard the jet in a flight a day earlier from Singapore.
“The Department of Agriculture is looking into how the snake came to be on the plane, but isn’t able to speculate at this time,” it said in a statement.
The mildly venomous Asian snake was about the width of a pencil and did not pose a threat to humans, but it had the potential to cause ecological havoc in the Australian environment if it had escaped the plane with a mate, Canberra Reptile Zoo herpetologist Peter Child said.
While snakes rarely pose aviation hazards, a 3-meter (10-foot) python in January clung to the wing of a Qantas flight from the northeast coast city of Cairns to Papua New Guinea. The python died during the flight but was still attached to the wing when the two-hour flight ended in the national capital Port Moresby.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.