While working at the Bronx Zoo, I had the once-in-a lifetime opportunity of helping to import and care for one of the largest snakes in captivity. While “largest snake” debates are ongoing, the massive Reticulated Python I came to know was awe-inspiring by any standard. Dubbed “Samantha”, she was captured as an adult in Borneo, and eventually reached 26 feet in length and 275 pounds in weight. The story of how she arrived in the USA involves a cash reward established by Theodore Roosevelt, the leather trade, animal dealers and other twists and turns.
Wanted: 30 Foot-Long-Snake
In 1910, Theodore Roosevelt, long involved with the Bronx Zoo, offered a reward to the first person who presented a snake of 30 feet in length; in time the reward grew to $50,000. In 1992, I and other Bronx Zoo staff heard rumors that a giant Reticulated Python that had been captured in Borneo. We did not get overly-excited… being well-seasoned, I automatically deducted 25-50% from the size of any “biggest snake-turtle-croc” stories that came my way. But then grainy photos arrived by mail, and the snake depicted was, if not the largest I’d seen, impressive. Whether by design or bad luck, the photos did not allow us to accurately gauge the animal’s length. Read More »