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Scores of weird and wonderful things get sent in the mail, but you wouldn't expect an eight-foot snake to be one of them.

Stansted Airport staff were shocked to find the albino reticulated python in a parcel, due to be put on a plane to be sent to its new owner, who had bought it online.

The snake had spent eight hours in the postal system after being sent from Harlow, in Essex, en route to its Exeter destination.

Staff discovered the snake using an X-Ray machine.

RSPCA inspector Steve Reeves recovered the creature, which has since been taken to a wildlife centre in Essex while its original owner is traced. The new owner has organised its new pet to be collected by a special courier.

Sophie Adwick, exotics and trade officer for the RSPCA, said: "This shocking case shows just how easy it is to order an exotic animal via the internet. If you are thinking about getting an animal, visit a reputable seller or rescue centre, not a website."

Meanwhile Mr Reeves said: "It may sound strange, but it would have been easy to miss the fact that there was such a large snake in this parcel.

"It was just curled up and was very still - so the mailmen picking up the parcel would have had no reason to know what was inside.

"All the machine picked up was that there was something organic in the shape of a snake - so they must have got quite a shock when they opened up the package. It makes you wonder what could go undetected."

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