Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Not for nothing do I keep a Mongoose in the house
Here I was peacefully drinking my Mongoose beer, reading the Toronto Star and I come across this:
A Toronto man whose giant, loose cobra forced the evacuation of a rooming house also kept a huge viper in his living room and a third venomous snake in his locker at work.
Helder Claro pleaded guilty to mischief and creating a common nuisance yesterday as more details of his curious hobby were revealed in a North York courtroom.
The man in his 30s rented a semi-detached house at 18 Church St., near Weston Rd. and Lawrence Ave. W., when his Egyptian Cobra got loose and moved through the ceiling into the other half of the semi, terrorizing tenants last September.
The Egyptian Cobra is extremely aggressive when cornered, Toronto Zoo reptile expert Bob Johnson told provincial court.
Before he was arrested, Claro was a trainee baker at Nova Era Bakery. His replacement, when cleaning out Claro's locker, found a Tupperware container that contained another Egyptian Cobra, Crown prosecutor Frank Schembri told court.
When the female cobra was captured and brought to the zoo, Johnson said, it lashed out repeatedly, leaving droplets of venom.
The uproar began last September when a tenant at the rooming house saw a 2-metre snake in the kitchen, Schembri said. It raised its head as if to strike.
Animal control officers were called but couldn't locate the cobra. Tenants later spotted him sticking his head out of an unfinished electrical cabinet.
Toronto zoo officials were called and police ordered the tenants evacuated. But the snake's owner could not be found.
When Johnson and fellow reptile experts entered Claro's house they found other animals: a large dog, parrot, green frog, and two lizards.
They also came upon a 2-metre Gaboon Viper, a poisonous African snake with 2 1/2centimeter-long fangs, in a living room aquarium, its top poorly secured by a damaged mesh.
Johnson and his colleagues also found three shed snakeskins, two of which – from Egyptian Cobras – were hung in the courtroom yesterday. One of them matched the female in the bakery locker. The other, larger one, is believed to belong to the still missing snake.
On Oct. 10, police found a car with stolen plates and arrested Claro, Schembri said. Claro, through his lawyer Carlos Rippell, contends the plates weren't stolen, and that people's lives were not endangered by his hobby. But he essentially agreed to all the facts set out yesterday.
The last confirmed sighting of the cobra in the house was in early October.
It is believed to be still somewhere in the walls.
Both adjoining homes remain evacuated.
Claro's sentencing hearing continues today before Justice Leslie Pringle.
Not for nothing do I keep Mongoose in the house and a trusty elephant gun for the next scene.