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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Burmese python lost & found and Vandalur Zoo…. What goes out will come back on its own !!

Perhaps it was brumating – only that could explain its missing for months.  In Sept 2011 I had posted about the escapade of burmese python from Vandalur Zoo and the casual way of Zoo authorities.  Pythons are not known to attack humans, they say.  There is news that in 2008, a 10-foot Burmese Python killed a student zookeeper in Caracas, Venezuela.   The Zoo Director General was quoted as saying that the  young man underestimated the animal's instinct.  It was stated that it is rare for constrictor snakes to kill humans, but it has happened on rare occasions.   It was further reported that less than a dozen deaths by constrictor have been recorded in North America in the past 20 years.

Drifting away -  Guido van Rossum  is a Dutch computer programmer who is best known as the author of the Python programming language. In the Python community, Van Rossum is known as a "Benevolent Dictator For Life" (BDFL), meaning that he continues to oversee the Python development process, making decisions where necessary.  He is  reported to be with Google.  Python is a general-purpose, high-level programming language.  The reference implementation of Python (CPython) is free and open source software and has a community-based development model, as do all or nearly all of its alternative implementations. CPython is managed by the non-profit Python Software Foundation.

Getting back to the constrictor, the  Burmese Python (Python molurus bivittatus) is the largest subspecies of the Indian Python and one of the 6 largest snakes in the world, native to a large variation of tropic and subtropic areas of Southern- and Southeast Asia. They are often found near water and are sometimes semi-erect, but can also be found in trees.   In Sept 2011, there was news of a  Burmese python escaping  from its enclosure in Vandalur Zoo, Chennai, sending shivers up the spine.

It was reportedly spotted outside by a couple of visitors but it was no news to the Zoo Officials as they knew of the escapade a week earlier.   They did not put up a board even stating that it would scare away the visitors and reportedly asked people not to worry as pythons are not poisonous.    Pythons are known to  gobble up birds and small mammals and can crush a human being to death. The python uses its sharp teeth to seize the prey, then wraps its body around it and, contracting its muscles, kills it by constriction.

Their casual ways have perhaps paid off.  It was destined to happen by chance one day and why put unnecessary efforts in to that ?  now there are reports [today’s TOI Chennai edition – 6th Dec 11] that the nine ft long puthon was found in bushes near the enclosure on 5th Dec 11.  The eight-year-old reptile,which had swallowed a chicken kept near the enclosure as bait,was spotted by a keeper.  Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras near the enclosure  also captured footage of the python in the bushes. The python,also known as rectified python,was then placed in its enclosure at the serpentarium.  The python appears very healthy and the skin is shining. It may have shed the upper layer a few days ago. We are happy to have it back, said the zoo director.

In early Sept. 11, the python had escaped when the keeper forgot to close the channel connecting the enclosure with an outlet outside with a piece of wood. By the time,the mistake was spotted,the python had managed to crawl out.  After many futile  attempts, officials installed a CCTV camera in front of the enclosure but were unable to track it. Then, a chicken was placed near the enclosure. This plan too appeared to have failed initially . Later, officials noticed that chicken began to go missing and a few pieces of python skin were also found there.  The search was intensified and officials were hopeful of trapping it as the python appeared to be in search for a companion.    At Vandalur,  there  are 24 enclosures containing 104 snakes, including 41 Indian pythons,21 Burmese pythons and four cobras  in the serpentarium that was opened in 1989. The Vandalur zoo,on an average,sees around 4,000 visitors every day.During weekends and holidays, the number doubles.

Brumation is similar to hibernation – the dormancy in reptiles.  Reptiles generally begin brumation in late fall; they will often wake up to drink water and return to "sleep". They can go months without food. Reptiles may want to eat more than usual before the brumation time but will eat less or refuse food as the temperature drops. However, they do need to drink water. The brumation period is anywhere from one to eight months depending on the air temperature and the size, age, and health of the reptile.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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