Saturday, February 2, 2013

Giant snake sets village abuzz

Kisumu Museum staff uncoil a python weighing 54 kg and measuring 15 feet after it was found in Nyalunya in Nyakach district, Kisumu county on February 1, 2013. Photo/JACOB OWITI

Kisumu Museum staff uncoil a python weighing 54 kg and measuring 15 feet after it was found in Nyalunya in Nyakach district, Kisumu county on February 1, 2013. Photo/JACOB OWITI  nation

By ELVIS ONDIEKI [email protected]     

In a week when heavy rains felled a century-old sacred tree in Tetu, Nyeri County, a python that is likely to snake its way into Kenya’s zoology books has been discovered in Nyakach.

The 15-foot python was discovered on Thursday by residents of Nyalunya location, about 42km from Kisumu.

If it were to stand on its tail on a football goal-line, the 55-kg python would have the crossbar touching its half-length mark.

The discovery elicited excitement among the villagers, who could not resist the urge to have a glimpse of the reptile.

The snake had been living in a hole on a bushy area between two homesteads.

The villagers can now rest in peace knowing where their goats had been disappearing to.

Nation Museums staff in Kisumu collected the female python late that evening.

Longest reptile

It is now the longest reptile at the museum, dwarfing the hitherto record holder by a foot and a half. It also holds the record of being the first female python there.

Its new diet will be rabbits, rats and goats which it will be served once a week or two.

“The interval between the times when we feed them depends on what it has eaten. If it eats a goat, for instance, it can comfortably go for up to three months without food,” explained Mr Edwin Kiga, a snake handler at the museum, adding that the new python could go for up to six months without food as it adjusts to its new environment.

Giant pythons are not new to Nyakatch. It is the same region that produced the famous Omieri, a python that slithered into fame in 1987 when village elders opposed a move by the Kenya Wildlife Service to take it away for treatment after it was burnt by a bush fire. It died while undergoing treatment.

In 2003, another a 14-foot python was discovered in the area. Some villagers claimed its appearance was a sign of good things to come.

Then area MP Peter Odoyo told the Nation that the snake was not to be moved without the consent of the village elders.

Villagers claimed the appearance of the python, which they referred to as a ‘visitor’, was an indicator that they were going to have a bumper harvest.

An elder is on record saying that starvation was imminent if anyone dared take egg-brooding Omieri away.

However, the python discovered on Thursday was not one that villagers wanted to cling to.

Area chief Kenneth Mboya explained that it was not in the Omieri lineage. “Omieri was distinctly black in colour and rarely neared people’s residences but this one had a spotted skin and was living close to people’s houses,” he said.

Good riddance

“Villagers were so cooperative when we went to collect it. You could tell that they felt it was good riddance,” Mr Kiga said.

Pythons are non-fanged, which means they cannot inject venom into their victims. They compensate for their lack of venom by strong muscles, which they use to strangle their prey. Like most snakes, they swallow their food whole.

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