LONDON Britain's Foreign Office spent 10,000 pounds ($16,100) 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".
($1 = 0.6196 British pounds)
(Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer, editing by Paul Casciato)