It’s 5.13pm and John Cann is making his final exit from the La Perouse Snake Pit in Cann Park, La Perouse.

The first crowds today saw local NSW MP, Michael Daley, and Federal MP, Peter Garrett, who came to make a special presentation.  They reminded everyone of the significance of the contribution that the Cann Family had made to our knowledge of Australian reptiles and in helping to save lives with the development of antivenoms, and education on deadly snakes.

The crowds had dwindled by the final show of the afternoon but John was still in top form showing off the Python; in command of the Goanna; taking around George Senior’s Army hat; being photographed with family (including sister Noreen who featured as a baby in this newsreel: Film Clip of George Cann and son in 1938.   ) and the final pack up – ‘off into the sunset’.  Let’s hope in the future we get to see some of these magnificent reptiles and John giving occasional talks at a Reptile Centre on Bare Island.


  1. Admin says:

    FROM HANSARD 22 April 2010 Michael Daley, local MP: Speakers – Daley Mr Michael
    Business – Private Members Statements, PRIV

    Page: 22225

    Mr MICHAEL DALEY (Maroubra—Minister for Police, and Minister for Finance) [6.39 p.m.]: In La Perouse, in the southern part of my electorate, is a 10 by 10 metre metal enclosure known as the Snake Pit. Why do we have a snake pit in our local area? Of course, it is for the La Perouse Snake Man, who has educated and entertained generations who have grown up in our local area and thousands of visitors since 1897. For 91 of those 112 years the role of the Snake Man has been played by someone from the Cann family. Last Sunday afternoon John Cann, a former Olympic decathlete for Australia in the 1956 Olympics, a recipient of an OAM in 1992 in recognition of services to the community, conservation and the environment and Australia’s greatest snake handler, conducted his final snake show at the Snake Pit at La Perouse.

    For John snake charming was a passion, a calling and, most importantly, a proud family tradition. Snakes have always been in the Cann family’s blood, sometimes literally. John’s mother, Essie, was the first snake woman of Tasmania. His father, George Cann Snr, was running a snake show in Hatte’s Arcade in Newtown by the age of 13. After returning from the battlefields of France in 1919 he became La Perouse’s Snake Man. Legend has it he was bitten so many times that he was said to have developed a natural immunity to snake venom, an attribute that may have helped him become curator of reptiles at Taronga Zoo in 1938. He was followed by George Cann Jnr and John Cann, who took over upon their father’s death in 1965. After running the snake show for almost 45 years, the last nine by himself after his brother George passed away in 2001, John decided that it was time for the curtain to close with his final show last Sunday 18 April 2010.

    Last Sunday, together with the Federal member for Kingsford Smith, Peter Garrett, I jumped into the Snake Pit during the final show. The crowd were 10 deep and people were standing on cars. There was a large contingent of media and people from all over the area and further afield to see John off. He was presented with a certificate and given three cheers. It was the least we could do. As a little boy, with my brothers, I would go to see George and John and take our sick blue tongue lizards and long-necked tortoises to the Cann family. They received all the kids openly, helped them and educated them, and John will continue to do so. They made a tremendous contribution to the life of La Perouse and our local area.

    John will never really retire. I am told that he is passing some of his snakes on to the Herpetological Society at Hawkesbury, but keeping his favourite ones. He will continue his remarkable research into reptiles, particularly freshwater turtles, and also his role as a much sought-after community educator on interacting with snakes. I am told that even as late as this afternoon he was educating EnergyAustralia employees on how to interact with snakes that they may come across in their working day. Always looking after people and protecting all creatures great and small is one of the legacies of the Cann family. Amidst all their achievements and all the things that people will say about John, George, their dad and family, their greatest accolade is the most simple: they were lovely people. The boys were nature’s gentlemen and the Canns were a very close-knit and genuine family. We owe them a great debt of gratitude.

    Once again on behalf of the local people I thank John and his family for the incredible contribution they have made to a very colourful area of La Perouse and to the local and wider community. Many thousands of people from all over the world, particularly in places where there are no snakes, will sit and talk about the day they came to a little, unassuming pit in a place called La Perouse, named after a Frenchman, one of the world’s greatest navigators, and saw a bloke called Cann wrangling snakes. They will not forget it and nor should they. We will not forget John Cann.

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