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7 May 1999
It was a hoax!
Enquiries carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's Enforcement Unit have established that the snake skin found in the Wellington Botanic Gardens was the shed skin of a Burmese Python which continues to live happily in its home in Cornwall, England.
The sloughed skin was bought in to New Zealand several years ago by a traveller who has relatives in the Wellington area.
On his return to this country earlier this year the traveller considered that it would be a good April Fools' Day joke to put the skin in the Botanic Gardens and carefully positioned it, intending that it be found on the 1st of April.
The skin was found draped over a bush by a gardener working in the Gardens.
The hoax sparked intense speculation as to whether the original owner of the skin was lurking in the Botanic Gardens somewhere, and even prompted a nocturnal snake hunt by a group of enthusiasts. An earlier search by MAF staff had found no sign of the 4.5 metre original owner of the skin - or of snake droppings.
The traveller has apologised profusely for any inconvenience his prank may have caused.
Media inquiries to:
Debbie Gee, Director, Corporate Communications, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (04) 474 4258