Saturday, 28 March 2009

"Mouth Rot"

Back in Tenerife at the Tenerife sur zoo, Marco and Claudio had gone on a collecting trip and left a friend Sam (*not his real name) in charge of the reptilarium, their separate private owned snake section housed in the grounds, the same friend that got bitten on the thumb by the cape cobra.

In this instance Sam* trotted whistling round the corner which made me suspicious. He was too cheerful. You know that false happy, someone has when they are going to ask you to do something nasty, that no one else is stupid enough to do.

“I have just been looking at the python and she has mouth rot” (stomatitis).
“And?...” l glared just knowing what was coming but may as well make him say it.
“Need your help to handle her so that l can treat her” he grinned
“She is a more bad tempered bitch than l am and a damm site bigger and stronger as well”
“Awww don’t be mean she is only about 13ft and well yes she is bad tempered but not that bad, and she does need treating, you don’t want it getting worse” he tried to blackmail me.
I muttered she could rot for all l cared.
“Well you know that no one else here will handle her” he tried again
“In other words they are sane and l am bloody stupid, you do know that Marco and Claudio who know what they are doing won’t handle her unless they really really… really have to.” l tried again but knew it was a lost cause, sod it l should have meant it when l said she could rot.

So we went to the off display area she was kept in, a quiet section away from the public. The bitches housing unit was a huge glass fronted display built for some reason on a trailer. The python in question was bad tempered on good days and totally evil on bad days. As l said Marco and Claudio avoided handling her unless absolutely necessary because of her temperament and strength.

Medication at the ready l told cheerful Sam* he was making the first contact with her. He was fine about that. He thought (hoped) he could do the medicating without taking her out.
He opened the door and climbed up, half leant in, ready to get her chance she started to slide out and he had to catch fast before she was out the door.
He fell off the step with her push forwards and had to scramble upright holding her tightly. I grabbed the tail end as it slammed out to try and wrap around whoever it could.

Sam managed to get the mouth swabbed with the medicinal mix without getting grabbed by the mouth, or so he informed me. I was to busy with being tossed around like a boat on a wild sea by the tail end as she writhed while trying to avoid the odd loop she started to throw.
“ok he gasped let’s get her back”
If l thought the first part was hard l had a lesson to learn on getting her back in. The trailer was raised so it was an up to get in as opposed to a down slide out. Added to that the door did not want to stay open and no safe way could we jam it open, whoever was nearest it had to try and fling it open as we stumbled past.

She threw loops on us. She threw us all over the place with her writhing twists, as we unwound or shrugged off a loop another descended. She had us both looped several times. Her mouth was trying to grab whatever it could to aid the constriction.
We slammed into and tripped over the trailer with her writhing but did not dare let go.
Paco the zoo owner appeared and l gasped for him to give us a hand, gasped because l was trying to get a loop off my throat.
“Not a chance she is Diablo” he said and after watching wide eyed at our struggles he disappeared.
It took us 10 minutes to get her back in. We were exhausted battered and bruised from banging into her trailer, falling over and out of breath from loop squeezes.

I glared at Sam*, and just how often are we meant to do this merry little fucking dance before she kills us?” l asked. Not amused, and totally exhausted knowing how much of a miracle it was that she had not got free and none of us got seriously hurt.

“We aren’t, she is to dangerous sod it the lads will have to do her when they come back, l will just keep an eye and see it doesn’t get worse” Sam panted back.

When Marco and Claudio arrived back they had horrified hysterics when informed of our little jaunt. You never got her out, just 2 of you? Followed by more laughter from the pair.
“She has a slightly deformed mouth” said Marco when he recovered from laughing. “It was damaged when she was young by a person that did not know how to handle her. We took her on to fix her and kept her"
“Deformed be beggared she damm near ate us and squeezed us into a nice mush while she was about it” l said.
“Yes she just has lip damage to show for things now” said Marco. “No trouble with anything else, as you noticed.” He carried on chuckling.

I glared at Sam but before l gave in to the urge to shovel him back in with ‘the bitch’ and lock the door. l snarled “Get medical histories next time before you take over care of anything.” l stalked off.

Some facts and why these big constrictor snakes are not pets.

The large pythons can get vicious as they get bigger. Pythons up to 30 ft reported in the wild. The biggest captive snake is 27ft and 183kg. Pythons are as wide as telegraph poles when adult, and it is all muscle.

They are carnivorous. Attacks on handlers, sometimes deadly, are not uncommon.

It is recommended for these snakes you should always have a second person available to help with handling and feeding. And defiantly 2 people when it is over 8 feet long. In fact it is a good idea to have a person present for for each 4 feet of snake. So 3 people to handle a 12 foot snake and 4 people for a 16 foot snake.


JuliaM said...

"..she is only about 13ft.."

'Only'...? ;)

Vetnurse said...

Well she could have been a lot bigger and then it may have been really dangerous, that was his reasoning. (l think)

Dave the Dog said...

Your last bit is spot on.
Too many people are blase about handling the big ones. (They're the ones usually found dead)
We had a 14' Burmese at our sanctuary, 3 to handle and 1 as safety watch. We always had a spray or bottle of surgical spirit available as well, along with a very sharp knife.

I hate it when I see handlers/owners draping even 4-5' constrictors around childrens shoulders for photo's. I will always give words of advice when I see that.

Vetnurse said...

The thing was this guy was trained in Jersey under the Durrell zoo scheme and had been at several big collections.
He was only used to non poisonous snakes hence the cobra problem. The non poisonous ones though he had a reputation for being good with.

Auntie Jane said...

OMG... That was scarey.