Cash-strapped government spends 10,000 pounds on a dead snake

LONDON Fri Nov 2, 2012 11:33am GMT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Foreign Office spent 10,000 pounds to re-stuff the corpse of a giant 120-year-old snake, at a time when government departments are being told to rein in spending.

In response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from political blog Guido Fawkes, the Foreign Office said the 20 foot anaconda - called Albert - had been in poor condition and required "essential maintenance".

"Albert the anaconda was allegedly presented by a Bishop, in what is now Guyana, to the Colonial Secretary in the 19th century", the Foreign Office said.

The huge reptile hangs in a Foreign Office library and is regarded as a departmental asset in a country whose former empire once ruled over vast swathes of the planet.

"Austerity, what austerity?", asked the blog in red below the response.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office recoiled at the suggestion that reviving Albert's looks might not be essential work for a government whose prime minister warned voters just last month to brace for "painful decisions" on the economy.

"It is quite a bit of money, but he is a very big snake. We will not be constricted, nor will we scale back, in our dedication to preserve this historic national treasure".

(Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer, editing by Paul Casciato)

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