Fluffy the Python Dies

Saturday, October 30, 2010 at 5:46 PM Bookmark and Share
The Columbus Zoo's famed Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus) died this week at the ripe old age of 18.

According to the Columbus Dispatch:
...Fluffy died Tuesday night, apparently of a tumor.

The 18-year-old reticulated python was 24 feet long and held the Guinness World Records title of longest snake in captivity. She weighed 300 pounds, according to a news release from the zoo.
Sad news, but this made me even more sad ...
The snake will be cremated, zoo spokeswoman Patty Peters said.
Cremated?!  Why not preservedLet Fluffy break another record and become the world's longest snake skeleton!  Surely there are people in the area that could prepare the specimen, it it really would make for an awesome display at the zoo. Beyond the immediate future, Fluffy's passing no doubt brings up another big question...

Will Fluffy Be Replaced?

I certainly hope so, and I'll go one step further and encourage the Columbus Zoo to not only replace Fluffy but to do so by doing one (or both!) of the following:
  1. Get a "normal" Reticulated Python.  If I'm not mistaken, Fluffy was a "tiger" morph - a pattern mutant commonly bred in captivity that looks like this instead of this or this.
  2. Exhibit this species' natural variation by acquiring (and breeding) some of the diminutive individuals that can be found in the pet trade, or at least individuals from (and representative of) a known locality. These island "dwarfs" (see here, here and here[PDF]) seem to only reach about 6'-10' long (tiny!) instead of 20'+ like individuals from other populations.
Why a normal looking reticulated python and these tiny island dwarfs?  To quote Melissa Kaplan's article The Use of Reptiles in Public Education (emphasis mine):
...The education animal should be representative of a normal form of the species (Gibson, 1994a; San Francisco Zoological Society, 1983). One of the goals of reptile education is to teach not only about the reptile itself but how that species lives in its environment, including how it is camouflaged from predator and prey. In the case of indigenous species, normal forms will help the audience identify the species when they see it in their yards, parks or in wild areas. Captive-bred color and pattern morphs are best saved for use in teaching the basics of genetics and heredity or in lectures addressing reptiles as pets rather than where the focus is on creating an awareness of wildlife and conservation.

[Hat tip to Cindy Steinle via Kingsnake.com]

6 comments:

Posted by: David Steen | 10/30/2010 6:49 PM

I agree education animals should be representative of wild animals, however my hunch is that many animals in zoos and nature centers are pets that become 'unwanted' by their animals, and this is why you get these 'designer' morphs.

A fine point: many articles on this snake may give the impression that Fluffy is/was the largest known of its species, but if you look at the wording of Guinness it is actually the longest snake 'currently' in captivity, not the longest known. So, a preserved specimen may not be the longest skeleton.

Posted by: David Steen | 10/30/2010 6:50 PM

* "by their animals" should read "by their owners"

Posted by: Patty Peters | 10/30/2010 7:12 PM

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is preserving Fluffy's skin. It will be a great visual to talk about their dwindling numbers in the wild due to being killed for their beautiful skin.

Posted by: Paul | 10/30/2010 9:41 PM

@David - though frequently the case, Fluffy was purchased for a reported $35,000(!) - not exactly an unwanted pet. As far as her's being longest skeleton, the longest skeleton I could dig up with a cursory search was the McJunkin specimen. Even if it wouldn't be a record, a skeleton that size on display for the public would be impressive!

@Patty - glad to hear her legacy will live on at the Columbus Zoo :)

Posted by: David Steen | 10/31/2010 9:45 PM

$35,000! Holy smokes. I'll bring them a couple of the thousands of Burmese pythons now crawling through the Everglades. I'll even only charge them $10,000 each.

Posted by: Paul | 10/31/2010 10:36 PM

Florida Burmese Pythons might actually make for a nice bit of natural history - come to think of it. Great ecology story to go along with the new display ;)

To compare that $35K to the bottom end of the market, medium sized "normal" retics go for under $100 on craigslist.

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