Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » October 20th, 2011, 6:15 am

The Malaysia Nature Society is a venerable old community of very enthusiastic people concerned about the natural beauty of their homeland. Since its inception 70 years ago, the MNS has kicked off countless conservation campaigns, many with tremendous and far-reaching success. So it was with great pleasure that I accepted their invitation to lead, later this month, a reptile-themed nightwalk in Permai Rainforest Resort, a beachside rainforest resort north of Kuching. As I was not familiar with the trail the MNS had selected for this event, we agreed to do a recce walk with a few Permai guides to see the lay of the land and to check for hotspots that should not be missed during the actual walk. We reconnoitered the trail last Friday morning, and at first, things looked quite bleak. It's the beginning of the rainy season: it had rained the entire the way to the resort that morning, the skies were grey, and the forest was dripping like mad. While these are perfect conditions for nightwalks, the chances to see any herps during the day (any animals at all, in fact) are slim. Quite a bummer, as I'm currently trying to show my high school buddy Marcus, on a two-week visit to Sarawak, as many natural wonders of Borneo as possible (all photos in this post courtesy of Marcus Kloft, by the way - I was too lazy to bring my camera :-))

For the first fifteen minutes we just ambled along the narrow trail, getting thoroughly soaked by the thoroughly soaked greenery. Then I spotted this Gonocephalus liogaster on a trailside tree, and things started to look up. Cameras were hauled from bags, and a nice 20-minute photo session ensued, before the saurian decided he'd had enough of the smelly primates and their intrusive ways.

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After that, more ambling along the trail, and eventually we reached a narrow creek, barely five feet wide and less than a foot deep. My son Hans was walking point, gingerly stepping over the mighty smooth and slippery (think ice) rocks. As he was about to take the third step across the stream, he suddenly gave a blood-curdling yell and pulled back his foot only inches from the next stepping stone. Like a child possessed, he raced back over to our side, screaming distinctively unprintable expletives in four languages. At first, I didn't understand what the fuss was all about. I couldn't see anything untoward where Hans had been treading, and my eyes, scanning for the danger that had triggered such a violent reaction, came up empty. Finally I realized that one of the rocks in the creek sported two nostrils and one whitish eye, and then my brain zoomed in on the rest of the animal. It was an image that hit me like a sledgehammer: just below the surface, a sixteen-foot Python reticulatus lay stretched out along the middle of the creek, its tail end disappearing from sight somewhere upriver. In spite of its colossal bulk, the snake's camouflaged hide was just barely visible underwater. Only the head stuck out, and in the visual confusion of the dizzying jungle textures, it didn't really register as anything else but a wet rock.

Once we had digested what we were looking at, frantic activity broke out. Marcus whipped out his Nikon, took a few shots of the snake, but wasn't really sure how to proceed. To be honest, neither was I. I'm not exactly a total greenhorn anymore when it comes to snake handling and photography, but this was the first time I was presented with the problem of dealing with a reptile more than twice my length, probably more than half my weight, and definitely ten times my strength. I took a deep breath, tried to maintain my calm, and attempted rational thinking: This was just a snake. Okay, it was the hugest fricking snake I'd ever seen, but a snake nevertheless. Pythons are also ambushers rather than foragers, meaning that the thing would probably react just like a pit viper - staying immobile, relying on its protective markings. A pit viper the size of a fire hose, to be sure, but still. I grabbed Marcus' camera and my snake hook and approached the leviathan. He hadn't moved an inch during the commotion and was behaving just as I had predicted. I knelt next to his head, took a few photos, took some more, and the snake still didn't move.

Then I made a mistake: for no particular reason (probably because that's what you do with snakes) I tried to lift the python's head out of the water. That didn't go down quite as well: firstly, the snake's immense muscles didn't budge an inch - it was a sensation akin to prying loose a well-nailed floor board with a pipe cleaner. Secondly, Mr. Retic now became miffed at my intrusion of his privacy, slowly U-turned his humongous body around, and started upstream, where we couldn't follow him. At first, he probed a few shoreside hiding spots with his nose, but no hole in the immediate vicinity was large enough to accommodate his mass, so he just moved on and away from us. A few yards further, he found a large dead tree straddling the creek and decided to hide underneath. By now, about ten guys from the resort's head office had scrambled up the hill to see the monster. This was the largest retic anyone had ever seen in that forest, and they were just as excited as we were. A few of them sloshed into the creek to snap a few cellphone pix of the snake under the tree, but eventually the beast got sick of the humans monkeying around and glided into the depths of the jungle.

Our encountering such a humongous specimen in broad daylight (retics are nocturnal) can be attributed to the fact that it had recently shed, but one of the old eye scales was still attached. The eye was still milky, so the snake had opted for a long soak in the creek to facilitate proper shedding.

The reason why we didn't get any good photos of the snake, apart from the head shots, was its position in the creek, and our reluctance to follow it into the water. So please no bellyachin' about the crummy pix :-)

Although the python was very sluggish (onaccounta its bath in the cold mountain stream, I assume), the resort management later closed off that trail for non-guided visitors; at least for the next two weeks, to give the animal time to sort out its eye issues.

And that, boys and girls, was the most awesomely awesome herping experience of my entire life. I sure hope we see that thing again on our night walk!

Footnote: Hans had begged me to allow him to tag along, and being the weak parent that I am, I had given him permission to skip his tuition school that morning. And a good thing that was: had he missed this Find Of A Lifetime, he would have hated me for the rest of my days...

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Cole Grover
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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Cole Grover » October 20th, 2011, 6:50 am

Bad. Ass. I think I've got the formula worked out: (Hans (x exceptional narrative) + Borneo)/general herpiness = killer posts.

-Cole

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by vincemartino » October 20th, 2011, 6:52 am

That, my friend, is a home run. Nay, a grand slam. :thumb:

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by snakegirl24 » October 20th, 2011, 6:55 am

Great story! Awesome post!! Such a beautiful snake. That Gonocephalus liogaster is simply amazing!! I looove the color of its eyes, must of been so cool to see up close!! :)

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Rags » October 20th, 2011, 7:13 am

Wow, nice find. Any size Retic is a fantastic thrill - but a big one is best!

We found a six foot specimen in the mangroves at Pulau Melaka, it swam past as we watched an egret colony waking at dawn. The only photo I managed was an image of a dark wavy line in dark wavy water. The snake sank under the surface but appeared 20 yards away, just its snout and eyes above the water line under a bridge (exactly as your specimen has). It sat there for sometime, if we tried to get closer it just backed into the water for a few minutes only to reappear at the same spot when we backed off. I could just make out the diagonal black line from behind the eye. Your photos are fine, you can see what it is, which is more than I got!

Good luck with the MNS night hike. Have you tried the path up to the waterfall, it's a good walk with ropes and swinging bridges. We found Malayan Soft-Shelled Turtle (Dogania subplana) in the leaf litter, also one of the little rock frog species in among the boulders of the splash zone.

Cheers, Rags.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by nhherp » October 20th, 2011, 7:21 am

Nice, One day I will make it to see them in the field, I used breed retics back in the day.
Was the other eye like that? Otherwise it looks like it was just in shed, or a retained eye cap. The orange color of the iris makes a weird looking eye when they are in shed. I couldnt see any swelling, the color was dulled on it body and head as well. It will look amazing once it has shed

-N-

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Tim Borski » October 20th, 2011, 7:45 am

Hans, I was waiting for you to put this up. Holy-Moly, 'talk about worth waiting for...
A thousand thankyou's for sharing the encounter, Sir.
:thumb: :thumb:
Tim

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by krismunk » October 20th, 2011, 7:55 am

Thanks for posting & congratulations - that is indeed awesome :thumb:

It's obvious from the pics that thing is massive but just out of curiosity, how did you arrive at the 16 foot estimate?



PS: The Gonocephalus is cool as well :)

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Joshua Jones » October 20th, 2011, 8:27 am

I like the meth-addicted iguanas :lol:

Congrats on the retic. :beer:

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Paul White » October 20th, 2011, 8:40 am

Looks like my beloved Shiva, just without the yellow head 8-) That is a seriously awesome find (and I kinda like the one with some motion blur and the whole body visible--looks like he's flowing like water).

That was seriously amazing and I'm so frigging jealous right now. I love retics and seeing ANY in the wild, let alone a good sized one, would be the experience of a life time. Oh man. And yeah, I would do too much wrangling with a snake that size either :lol: I've been bitten by mine a time or two and yeah it frigging HURTS.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by mikemike » October 20th, 2011, 9:14 am

I have absolutely zero interest in boas and pythons in captivity (save for a very select couple species) but it HAS to be an awesome feeling seeing a snake that large in the wild. Thanks for posting as usual. Another great post, Hans.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Mulebrother » October 20th, 2011, 9:39 am

Cole stole my respone. BAD ASS!

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Berkeley Boone » October 20th, 2011, 11:36 am

THAT. WAS. EPIC.
This post gets my vote for the month. Holy crap that was awesome. There's not enough room on this forum for the amount of awesomeness that was just shown.

--Berkeley

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by cayrip » October 20th, 2011, 11:46 am

Someday....

Awesome post!

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by pete » October 20th, 2011, 3:50 pm

Another fantastic post!! Thank you for sharing with those of us in temperate climes!!

YOU DA MAN :thumb:

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Asnyder » October 20th, 2011, 4:48 pm

What a post. I think my favorite photo is the third from the end. Something just so cool about a giant retic in the stream. I know how I felt with the first 10ft anaconda I saw/caught (was taking DNA samples). 11ft-16ft is such a huge difference.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by gus » October 20th, 2011, 4:55 pm

Agreat find!
How thick would you estimate this snake to be? I ask because a few years back I found one at danum valley that i couldn't get my hands to touch on both sides of it, it was thicker than my thigh, it was huge i guessed ~20ft as we couldn't see it body in entirety at any point it was tough to guess. Do you think if you put your hands around this snake (one on each side) they would fit around the snake? e.g. thumb and index fingers touching...

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by crocdoc » October 20th, 2011, 5:16 pm

Great couple of finds.

RobK

Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by RobK » October 20th, 2011, 5:43 pm

That kind of made the recon trip worthwhile, huh? Can't imagine the adrenaline rush that must've been. I'm a bit disappointed though, Hans. I figured you'd at least humor us with a Brady Barresque type photo or at least one of you being dragged upstream while holding on to its tail.

Well done! Thanks for sharing. :thumb:

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » October 21st, 2011, 2:02 am

Thank you most kindly for the generally positive reception - glad y'all liked it :-)
Have you tried the path up to the waterfall, it's a good walk with ropes and swinging bridges. We found Malayan Soft-Shelled Turtle (Dogania subplana)

in the leaf litter, also one of the little rock frog species in among the boulders of the splash zone.
We did that trail a few weeks ago. But it's is so steep and root-infested that you're constantly busy looking where you step (especially on the way back down) instead of looking for animals. You were luckier (or more athletic) than we were! Soft-shelled turtles in leaf litter?? And what's a rock frog?

(By the way, I take offense at your new avatar :-) :-) )
Was the other eye like that?
No, it was OK. Indraneil Das thinks the snake just shed recently, and the milky eye is a retained eyecap.
how did you arrive at the 16 foot estimate?
The average of the estimates the twelve or so humans that saw the snake arrived at. They also measure in meters down here, and for large objects, I find that much easier and more accurate than trying to apply feet. We all agreed that the snake was about five meters long, which comes to 16.4041995 feet, which I then rounded off for credibility :-)
I like the meth-addicted iguanas
Eh?
Do you think if you put your hands around this snake (one on each side) they would fit around the snake?
No. To give you an idea of its size, the head was at least five inches wide at the widest point.
I have absolutely zero interest in boas and pythons in captivity (save for a very select couple species) but it HAS to be an awesome feeling seeing a snake that large in the wild
Exactly my sentiments. From a behavioral point of view, I find boids quite boring behind glass, but this was the biggest herping rush of my life. It was completely insane. In fact, I couldn't have cared less if we hadn't brought a camera at all - it was an encounter that's etched deep into my memory. I guess this experience can only be topped by an even bigger retic....no wait! We still haven't met a King Cobra :-)

By the way, we're going back to Permai tomorrow for a five-hour coastal boat trip along the mangroves. Among the target species are Sarawak Dolphins, Proboscis Monkeys, and saltwater crocs. Wish us luck!


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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Rags » October 21st, 2011, 2:57 am

- Sorry my avatar offends you - at least there is little chance of it inducing some kind of convulsive fit.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » October 21st, 2011, 3:52 am

Thanks for the photos! Amazing turtle, that. There's one in the turtle pond at Kubah NP, a huge beast with what looked like a three-foot carapace. I just can't get over the size of softshell turtles here in South-East Asia....and their commonness!

I've seen those rock frogs before....sticking to my nephew's belly.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by -EJ » October 21st, 2011, 5:38 am

My first response when I saw the lizard... fk me. I've never seen anything like it. First thought was a Calotes X Iguana and throw in the blue eyes for good measure. Nice. The natural retic shots are amazing (you still make me sick...jealous is a better word).

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Mourits » October 21st, 2011, 6:56 am

:shock:
That's just amazing, I would do anything to see such a large snake in the wild!!

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by moloch » October 21st, 2011, 11:00 am

Amazing, Hans. Great finds and excellent post. You must be loving your new abode ... I would be!

Regards,
David

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » October 21st, 2011, 3:25 pm

Thanks again!
-EJ wrote:My first response when I saw the lizard... fk me. I've never seen anything like it.
You must have missed this post....there's a nocturnal close-up of the eyes.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by TNWJackson » October 22nd, 2011, 9:30 pm

Awesome find Hans, finding a big retic is always a blast, they are few and far between! I've always been struck by how slender the large wild retics are compared to their captive counterparts.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by -EJ » October 23rd, 2011, 2:17 am

I did miss it. Thanks for the link. I like the daytime shot better.
Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:Thanks again!
-EJ wrote:My first response when I saw the lizard... fk me. I've never seen anything like it.
You must have missed this post....there's a nocturnal close-up of the eyes.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Dr. Dark » October 24th, 2011, 8:32 am

Hans, that is absolutely KILLER! That beast must have really gotten the adrenaline pumping! These Borneo posts are just making me GREEN with envy...

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by frogshot » October 30th, 2011, 4:15 pm

I must have missed this post! great find and great narrative, I love the shot of the blurred boy moving through the water.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Bill Love » October 30th, 2011, 6:58 pm

Very cool shots of that retic python foraging, Hans!

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » October 30th, 2011, 7:03 pm

Thanks again, guys! The snake wasn't foraging, though - it had been soaking in the creek, minding his own business, and only started to move when I foolishly messed around with it.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Kelly Mc » October 30th, 2011, 7:12 pm

This was fantastic to read and see !!! right from the start with the gono guy looking almost like an apparition on that tree to the close shot of the retics head cutting thru the waters - thank you i am breathless

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Scott Lupien » November 3rd, 2011, 5:15 pm

Wow, Hans! Congrats on such an awesome find!

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Mike Pingleton » November 4th, 2011, 12:09 pm

Epically awesome (awesomely epic?). I can understand Hans Junior's reaction! Small primate, large serpent! :shock:

What an incredible find!

-Mike

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Shane_TX » November 4th, 2011, 9:19 pm

Awesome find!

Retics are stunningly beautiful and impressive snakes. I still do a double-take when I find a dull six-foot ratsnake.......sixteen feet of python is some order of magnitude.

Congrats......especially to Hans Jr.

Shane

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » March 24th, 2012, 7:03 am

This afternoon I took David Fischer (moloch) and his friend Ted to the spot where all this had happened. David told me about snakes he had seen submerged in water to get rid of ticks. Maybe that was the (or another) reason why the python was in that creek.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Warren » March 24th, 2012, 9:51 am

Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:David told me about snakes he had seen submerged in water to get rid of ticks.
I believe submerging does help them shed.
http://is.gd/W5WMn5

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by intermedius » March 24th, 2012, 10:14 am

Warren wrote:
Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:David told me about snakes he had seen submerged in water to get rid of ticks.
I believe submerging does help them shed.
http://is.gd/W5WMn5
Pythons and boas submerge in the water to ambush passing prey, they use their heat sensing pits to seek the prey and strike at it as well.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » March 26th, 2012, 5:02 pm

Thanks, guys! Aquatic ambush....never thought of that!

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by scottriv » March 27th, 2012, 7:03 am

Mourits,

Seeing BIG snakes in the wild is now safe and easy.

All you need to do is catch a flight to Miami and drive about an hour.

You can see pythons bigger than that in the wild relatively easily :-)

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intermedius
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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by intermedius » March 27th, 2012, 3:47 pm

scottriv wrote:Mourits,

Seeing BIG snakes in the wild is now safe and easy.

All you need to do is catch a flight to Miami and drive about an hour.

You can see pythons bigger than that in the wild relatively easily :-)
It's funny because it's true

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Nir » March 28th, 2012, 4:43 am

Seriously?!?! WOW!! Cool post! Huge Retic in it's natural range and habitat... An observation that would be hard to beat for a lot of herpers including me...

Missed this post the first time around and I'm really glad it resurfaced!

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » April 1st, 2012, 2:00 am

Hey, I got pubblish'd! I wonder it this the first FHF post to find its way (slightly altered) into the print media...probably not.

http://www.theborneopost.com/2012/04/01 ... encounter/

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by DaveR » April 1st, 2012, 4:05 am

Nice job Hans. Saw this when you first posted it. I love Retics. Had a cb/cb one back in 1977 that I acquired as a hatchling. He was a "puppy" ... disposition -wise, but I had to get rid of him when he grew to 11' by age 15 months. Sold him/traded him to a reptile dealer for some other snakes. It actually was not hard to sell a big python back then...they were valued... believe it or not. I got rid of all my big species back then. Sold a 12' Burm and a 11' A-rock to the same dealer. I continue to keep pythons, but only a few smaller species of special interest. I've toyed with the idea of getting some of the dwarf varieties of Retic so common in the market. There are few snakes as beautiful as a nice Retic IMO. Anyway, congratulations on being published and keep posting on ANY subject. You are one of the handful of people that I look for on FHF because your posts are always good. Thanks Hans.

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: Borneo Dispatches #11: Sixteen-Foot Reticulated Python

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » April 1st, 2012, 10:44 pm

Thank you, Dave! Dwarf retics? Tell us more!

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