Officials at a zoo in Curugsewu, central Java, yesterday claimed to be in possession of the longest and heaviest snake ever captured. It's a fussy eater, apparently. But when you are longer than a double-decker bus, and weigh as much as six grown men, you can afford to be.
Certainly, the owners of a zoo in Indonesia haven't been quibbling over the dietary needs of an enormous python, which prefers to eat four fierce brown dogs every month.
The snake, they claimed yesterday, is the longest and heaviest ever captured. Doing so was no mean feat in itself. According to reports, it took 65 men and the blessing of a tribal leader to snare it.
Officials at the zoo in Curugsewu, central Java, told the Republika newspaper that the reticulated python is 14.85m (49ft) long and has a maximum body circumference of 85cm (almost three feet). It weighs, they say, 447kg (70 stone, 3lbs).
It was impossible to verify the claim yesterday because the only photos available were of the black and brown reptile curled up, apparently asleep.
The Guinness Book of World Records lists the longest captured snake as a 9.75m (32ft) reticulated python found on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi in 1912. The heaviest is a 182.76kg Burmese python in Illinois, US.
Republika quoted a keeper at the zoo, Rohmad, as saying that when the unnamed snake was captured, in Jambi province on Sumatra in mid-2002, it was 19m long.
Four metres reportedly had to be severed after a rotten deer was found undigested in its stomach.
Reticulated pythons, found across south-east Asia, are considered the longest snake species but adults usually measure only between three and six metres long. They kill their prey by biting it, hanging on with their 100 teeth and then squeezing it to death by wrapping their bodies around it.
Mr Rohmad said its diet includes three to four local dogs a month but that it is rather fussy about its food.
"We have given it dogs of various colours but this snake didn't want to eat them," he was quoted as saying. "It only wants to eat fierce brown dogs."
He added that the python sheds its skin every 35 days, taking 10 days to do so.
It was captured by a 58-year-old python expert from east Java who was summoned to Jambi after locals, who stumbled upon it while foraging for wood, were too afraid to approach it.
The expert reportedly needed 65 helpers to snare the python and the blessing of tribal leaders as pythons are regarded as deities by many locals.
The python is proving a major attraction. About 700 people visit the Curugsewu zoo every day to admire the new, albeit rather lazy, star.
Mr Rohmad said most visitors keep well away as they are afraid the snake will suddenly escape and attack them.
Reticulated pythons have been known to attack humans, but we are not regarded as its usual or favourite fare.
The head of the government district, Hendi Budoro, said he had only recently heard about the python.
"I have just appointed a team to investigate this snake so we cannot confirm its weight and height yet," he said. "It might take some time but it would be a great honour for us if it is true."
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