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Inspectors seize python used by healer in World Cup rituals

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
A photo released by the Cape of Good Hope SPCA of the Burmese python allegedly used to influence the World Cup.
A photo released by the Cape of Good Hope SPCA of the Burmese python allegedly used to influence the World Cup.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Animal welfare organization says 9-foot Burmese python was in "dire condition"
  • Investigators seized snake from shack
  • Healer was using the python to try to influence World Cup results
  • The snake is responding well to veterinary treatment
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(CNN) -- South African animal welfare inspectors say they seized an exotic snake that a traditional healer was using to try to influence World Cup matches.

Investigators found the 9-foot, female Burmese python in "dire condition" last week in a shack where the healer had set up shop in Cape Town, said Sarah Scarth, a spokeswoman for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"He'd been ostensibly taking money, and apparently using (the snake) as a medium to speak to the ancestors and appeal to them," she told CNN Tuesday.

Local authorities tipped off the SPCA, Scarth said. The python was suffering from pneumonia, mouth rot and dehydration when inspectors found him.

"It had no access to any food or water," she said.

The snake's condition has improved under a veterinarian's care, she said.

She said the SPCA would not be pursuing animal cruelty charges in the case because the sangoma, or healer, signed over ownership of the snake to the SPCA after meeting with officials.

Last week's seizure was not the first animal-related incident during the World Cup, Scarth said.

In one of the early games, security officials confiscated a rooster that a French fan had brought into the stadium, she said.