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from The Courier Mail, Queensland, Australia


Girl fights python to save kitten

March 27, 2003

A SIX-year-old girl became the first female to receive the RSPCA's humane award for saving her kitten from a predatory python.

Marlie Coleman did not think twice about taking on the scrub python when it wrapped its jaws around her kitten Sooty in their Cairns backyard earlier this year.

The sharp-toothed python let go of the kitten, but attached itself to Marlie's lip, hanging on until her mother heard the screams and shook it off.

Her mother, Shakira, remembers seeing Marlie standing on the barbecue with a snake attached to her face, bleeding and sobbing "Snake trying to eat Sooty".

RSPCA Queensland chief executive officer Mark Townend said Marlie's only concern on her way to hospital after the attack was for the kitten.

"The RSPCA does not want to see children place themselves in danger," Mr Townend said.

"However, this little girl, who was only five at the time, showed exceptional bravery.

"Marlie performed a selfless and courageous act on behalf of her kitten friend and she has captured the spirit of animal welfare."

Marlie still bears the scars of her ordeal, while Sooty recovered from minor injuries and the non-venomous python slipped away, never to be seen again.

Marlie was presented with the award at her school today, becoming the first female, youngest person and first Queenslander to receive it.

The RSPCA Australia Humane Award recognises people who have shown courage and risked their personal safety to rescue an animal.

Five men have won the award since 1990 for feats ranging from dragging a dog from a burning house to being hit by a car while rescuing a koala.

Scrub pythons grow to three metres in Cairns and are known to defend themselves by biting with their long, sharp teeth, said Michael O'Brien, wildlife curator at Wild World - The Tropical Zoo.

They prey upon warm-blooded animals such as chickens, small dogs and cats.

© Queensland Newspapers

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