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Claim: Indonesian villagers captured a 49-foot, 983-pound python.
Origins: In late December 2003, several news agencies picked up a story about Indonesian villagers who had reportedly captured a python "officially" measured at nearly
If the claims were true, this would have been one extraordinary snake: the Guinness Book of World Records lists the longest snake ever found at
But, as the British newspaper The Guardian discovered when it sent a reporter out to actually measure the legendary snake, claims about the reptile's size were rather exaggerated — their man measured Fragrant Flower, as the reticulated python is now known, at between 21 and
Snake handler Imam Darmanto offered several reasons for the discrepancies in measurements:
Look, you must understand that a python's length is not constant. Depending on the weather, on how recently he has eaten and when he last shed his skin, Fragrant can stretch and contract a great deal. A few days ago he stretched himself out halfway round the cage. The reason he is not that large now is because he has not eaten for about six weeks and has just shed his skin so his body is quite firm at the moment. When he's at his full length he's much softer and I can push my finger in much further. And his body is much fatter too, perhaps up to 50cm in diameter.Nonetheless, Guardian reporter John Aglionby's measurements, although admittedly imprecise, had Fragrant Flower nowhere near its claimed length, width, or girth:
Indeed, "coming up well short" does not do justice to the disparity between the claimed length and the length I measured. If Fragrant ever extends to 14.85m long he will be the most mind-boggling animal on earth because I measured him at somewhere between 6.5 and 7m.A Reuters photographer dispatched to the Curugsewu park to measure the talk-of-the-town snake obtained similar results:
The imprecise estimate is due to my reluctance to grab hold of his tail and stretch out the beautiful body that is a patchwork of brown, dark yellow and black scales even though Fragrant seems docile
Weighing the python is impossible. Judging by a tentative feel of his body while his attention is distracted by children poking their fingers through his cage, I would put it at perhaps 100kg but no
Amid growing skepticism of the claim, a photographer working for Reuters returned to the Curugsewu park in the small central Java town of Kendal with a measuring tape. The snake's true length — aroundThe Guardian also quoted Richard Shine, a python expert from Sydney University, as noting that during his extensive research he had found pythons containing recently-eaten "monkeys, pigs and even porcupines but no dogs," and that "these giant pythons always shrink whenever a tape measure turns up."
"I have no idea why the snake has shrunk," said one keeper when asked about the discrepancy, as the snake lounged on a tree branch inside its cage.
Fragrant Flower is a monster of a snake, but it's far short of being the record-setting giant initial reports made it out to be.
Giant Python on Display (MSNBC)
Stay Still, Will You? (The Guardian)
Last updated: 16 April 2007
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