Going Wild: George the Burmese Python
Updated On: Jun 27 2014 11:02:07 PM HST
It is one of the largest snake species on Earth.
Burmese Pythons are native to Southeast Asia, but are finding their way to the United States.
Meet George. At 40 pounds and four-feet long he may look big and scary, but keepers say he's harmless.
Originally, George was confiscated on the Big Island after someone was caught trying to smuggle him in as a pet. He now calls the Honolulu Zoo home and is used to educate others about his species.
"There's a lot of legend that swirls around snakes – that they're slimy, they're evil. But really, they're just like any other animal," said zoo keeper Rebecca Choquette.
George is albino. That means his skin has a lack of melanin. Sometimes he can be yellow, but is normally black or brown.
Keepers say although beautiful, Burmese python's bold skin is not always a good thing.
"In the wild, that would be a hindrance because it makes him stand out on the jungle floor when all he would really want to do is blend in," said Choquette.
To keep his skin fresh and clean, George sheds every 3 to 4 months.
"Everything comes off the top layer of skin, including the top layer of his eye," said Choquette. "He actually rolls it down his body. So, it look like, if you can imagine, pantyhose,"
Keepers say they aren't certain about his gender, but because of his small size they believe he is male.
George only eats one guinea pig each week. Keepers say they are often asked if humans are involved in his diet.
"Humans really are not a natural prey item for them and they are intimidated by us and would just prefer to steer clear of us," said Choquette.
But there's a growing problem on the mainland.
Keepers say although they fear humans, these guys are spotted all over states like Florida. Owners are starting to get rid of their pets by releasing them into the wild.
"They probably outgrew their tanks and their owners didn't want to keep them anymore. [They're] released into the Everglades and reeking biological havoc," said Choquette.
If released into Hawaii's rainforest, keepers say it would be devastating to our native wildlife. Burmese Pythons are not poisonous, but have a mean bite!
Keepers say owning them as pets is not a good idea and is also illegal.
If you know of any pet snakes here in Hawaii, please report them to the Department of Agriculture.
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