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Pythons in Singapore: What you should know about these snakes

Published on Apr 30, 2014 4:34 PM
 

A surprise visitor caused excitement at the Toa Payoh Swimming Complex on Tuesday morning: A 3m-long reticulated python was found in the competition pool. A team from the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) was roped in to help remove the snake.

It is suspected that the python entered the pool through a canal or drain, said wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai.

The non-venomous constrictor will be microchipped and released back into the wild, where it will be part of an ongoing python population study conducted by the National University of Singapore.

This is not the first time reticulated pythons have made appearances in urban Singapore - from ATMs to Orchard Road - although they were a lot more common back in the days when Singapore was a farming island when chickens and ducks were their main prey.

A surprise visitor caused excitement at the Toa Payoh Swimming Complex on Tuesday morning: A 3m-long reticulated python was found in the competition pool. --  FILE PHOTO: FONG CHEE WAI

Citizen journalism website Stomp hosts several python entries, with members of the public posting pictures of pythons in various parts of Singapore. Just earlier this month, a python was spotted in Jurong West. The python, called Vigna, eventually died.

Reticulated pythons are endemic to Singapore.

Here are some things to know about reticulated pythons:

* They are the most common type of snakes found in Singapore, feeding on rats and other small animals - although some experts say they eat anything they can catch - and have no problems living in drains.

* They are shy, and usually avoid human contact, but are capable of turning aggressive if they feel threatened.

* The bigger ones - more than 3m in length - are potentially dangerous to humans, according to A Guide To The Amphibians & Reptiles Of Singapore.

* They are the longest and heaviest in the python family, with the ability to grow up to 10m (the length of two full-sized sedans) and 113kg. But most found in Singapore are less than 5m.

* They are good swimmers and climbers.

* They don't move very fast, only about 1.6km per hour on open ground. But since they don’t have to chase their food, speed is not a necessity.

* They kill their prey through constriction, and swallow it whole, usually head first. Definitely a lot less messy than tigers feeding.

* They are watchful mothers, staying coiled around their eggs to protect them as they develop.

Acre's advice when you see a python:

- When sighted in nature spaces, green spaces, nature reserves, big water bodies, parks, canals and deep drains, it is best to leave them alone. Contradictory to popular belief and what the movies sometimes portray, they will usually move away or hide when seen. 

- But if the snake is within a built environment (for example, on the road) and is not moving/or has no way to find its way out to its habitat (for example, it is injured and/or trapped), call the Acres 24-hr wildlife rescue hotline: 9783 7782.

Just do not disturb the python - it is not venomous but it can give a nasty bite, as it has long, sharp teeth. Furthermore, killing or hurting any form of wildlife is also prohibited under Singapore law.

How to tell if the snake is a python:

From the size, for one. It is not venomous but it can give a nasty bite, as it has long, sharp teeth. Colour-wise, a reticulated python has a striking pattern, with zig-zagging black lines, interspersed with yellow-brown and dark brown or medium grey patches. Small bits of white may be present. A dark line swipes the middle of its elongated head, vertical pupils sit in orange eyes.

Danger alert:

- In 1995, a plantation worker in Malaysia was found with his head gripped in the jaws of a 7m-long python. The snake's body was coiled around the man's dead body.

- In Indonesia, a python which ate a cow whole is captured.

- An almost 15m-long python, weighing about 446kg, was captured in Indonesia.

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