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ROME (Reuters) - Italian police seized a rare albino python in Rome Wednesday in a raid on a group of drug traffickers who used the snake to guard cocaine and intimidate customers who owed them money.
The three-meter (10-foot) long reptile attacked police when they burst into the dealers' apartment where they were preparing the cocaine for distribution. The specialist forest police had to be called in to capture the python.
"When we went in, we found the animal right behind the door waiting for us, just like a proper guard dog," said Lieutenant Luca Gelormino.
"We were surprised to find 200 grams of very pure cocaine under the snake that it was jealously guarding. From our investigation we can say it had been trained to watch over the drugs."
The animal had been starved for seven days to make it extremely aggressive, but it calmed down after it was given a generous helping of chicken.
The python (Python Molurus Bivittatus), which the forest police said originated from Guinea and was "worth a great deal of money," was taken to the reptile house at Rome's zoo.
Police arrested 12 people in the operation and seized around five kilograms of cocaine.
Reporting by Ella Ide; Editing by Mark Heinrich