What is the largest snake in the world? The answer to this is not a simple one. For years experts and laymen alike have argued as to which snake holds the title as the world's largest snake.
The first problem encountered when trying to answer this question is the definition of the word "largest". By"largest" do we mean "longest", or "heaviest"?
When trying to answer this question do we take unsubstantiated reports into account, or do we only take into account verified scientific evidence?
It is also important to note at this point that there are exceptions to the rule. A record breaking length of any individual within a species cannot justify the entire species being labelled as giants, there are of course "freaks of nature" that are exceptions to the rule. So when answering what seems to be a simple question do we take record measurements of a species into account, or do we take the average size of any particular species in question?
There are only two possible candidates that could lay claim to the title of the world's largest snake. The Green Anaconda (Eunectes murinus) of central and tropical South America and the Reticulated python (Python reticulatus) of Asia. Both can be classified as giants. (At least the experts agree on this one)
The first contender for the title of largest snake is the Green Anaconda (Eunectes murinus). There are a number of unsubstantiated reports and claims of specimens exceeding 11 m (37ft) being found, but none of these claims could be verified and should be regarded with caution.
The average adult length for a Green Anaconda is between 5.3 m - 6.2 m (18 - 20ft) with the female always being much larger than the male of the species.
What is truly impressive is the sheer size (weight) of the Green Anaconda. Individuals weighing in at more than 220kg (485lbs) with a diameter of 30cm are not uncommon in this species.
The Reticulated python (Python reticulatus) may attain a maximum length of more than 9m (29ft). The longest reticulated python recorded was 10.05m (33ft). Despite its impressive length the record weight for a reticulated python is 145kg (320lbs), far less than the maximum weight of the Green Anaconda. As a result of its slender, less bulkier, build the reticulated python is a far more agile snake.
You can, of course view both species right here in the Lowveld with us at Perry's Bridge Reptile Park in Hazyview! But while we are quite proud of the size of our reticulated pythons Gus and Nahil, both now measuring close to 4.5 meters, our green anacondas ('Annie's') are...well, babies. But they sure are beautiful!
Although there may be disputes regarding which species of snake is the largest, there can be little argument as to which was the most colossal snake ever...
Coming in part 2!!!!!
Oom Len is our largest,and best known, resident. People often comment 'that has got to be the biggest crocodile I have ever seen!'. He has been with us since we opened our doors in 2008.
We first received the call from Mpumalanga Parks Board, saying that they had captured this enormous crocodile in Malelane, where he had been eating cattle at a veterinary quarantine camp...no wonder he was so big! I remember driving through Hazyview and passing the MTPA vehicle, trailer behind, and doing a triple take (if that is possible) when I saw the size of this magnificent creature. I did a u turn and raced back to the park gesticulating wildly to Rick that he must see the SIZE of this croc!!!!! I was so excited...and knowing that his alternate fate was to have been someone's trophy....glad to give him a big pond with a beautiful girlfriend (Princess) where he could live out his life safely.
Upon his capture he measured in at 4.1 meters.....not the longest croc BUT he weighed 980kg - and that is what makes him SO impressive, not his length but his bulk.
He was extremely shy for the first few months, at the first sign of anyone near his pond he slid into the water and sank to the bottom. These days he is a confident gentleman and completely unphased by the presence of people.
He is named after one of our biggest supporters and friends, whom sadly is no longer with us. But we know he was so happy to have a crocodile named in his honor, and Oom Len's gentle presence is a reminde of his generosity and support on a daily basis.
We don't know Oom Len's age, nor can we imagine the life that he has led and the amazing things he has seen....but we hope this iconic,magnificent predator will be with us for many years to come.
There was an amusing conversation at Perry's Bridge Reptile Park yesterday :) Rick had just finished his demonstration, and an interested lady commented "its all very well and fine to say good things about snakes, but what about SHARKS!!" . Little did she know that we had just returned from a trip to Cape Town and Gansbaai, where I ticked one off my bucket list - cage diving with the Great White Sharks!
What an incredible experience! And that, from me, who as a child was scared of the shadows in our pool in case they "might be sharks". Jaws sure has a lot to answer for!
My heart was literally pounding as I stepped onto the deck and we headed out to sea. While I have huge admiration for sharks, their beauty, and their place in the ocean, this is perhaps the closest to a phobia that I have. Fortunately the build up was quite slow, it was around 40 minutes before we saw the first shark approach, and I was not asked to be in the first cage - so I was able to observe for awhile, and by the time it was my (our) turn to climb into the water I was feeling pretty comfortable.
The visibility in the water wasn't great that day, but that didn't in any way detract from the experience...."divers DOWN" "divers LEFT" "divers FRONT" were the directions shouted as we submerged and looked, hopefully in the right direction! The ultimate memory burned into my mind was when a particularly large "big boy" (at least he was big for me!) managed to grab the decoy and came at top speed towards the cage, literally ending with the tip of his schnoz poking between the mesh!!! We could have picked the food out of his teeth, quite literally.
Visibility on deck was awesome! You can see Rick's pictures here:
While there have been concerns voiced about the practice of shark diving, like most things I think it has two aspects. When a shark is "finned" for soup, the economic return is $100, and the animal is returned in excruciating pain, thrown back into the water to drown as it can no longer swim, and dying in misery. With shark diving, each shark is worth around $2million (notice $, that is NOT a mistake!) to the community - and so there is strong motivation to conserve them even amongst those who don't recognise their intrinsic worth. There is also the opportunity to do research - the group I was with was noting fin markings and taking other data recordings throughout our trip - and of course the chance to educate huge numbers of people (32 people on our trip, with two trips going out per day. There were 5 operators all doing similar numbers - and that is Gansbaai ONLY).
I wish we had the opportunity to educate so many people about snakes! What a difference that could make......
So, if you would like to know more about snakes, please come along and visit us in Hazyiew, there are loads of activities in the area so make a day of it! And don't forget, we are open Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Years Day!
Carolyn Budai, owner and passionate animal person.