A photograph purporting to show a 55ft snake found in a forest in China has become an internet sensation. It was originally posted in a thread on the website of the People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper in China.
The thread claimed the snake was one of two enormous boas found by workers clearing forest for a new road outside Guping city, Jiangxi province. They apparently woke up the sleeping snakes during attempts to bulldoze a huge mound of earth. …
via Ananova – Photo of 55ft snake shocks China.
If you look at the size of the scoop on the tractor, this seems to be a classic camera trick: forced perspective. More like a 25 ft snake.
Here’s another fake below, created seemingly for amusement. In this case, the creator reportedly paid for his lack of honesty, however. The Star.com says a man was taken into custody for posting a badly done Photoshop image of a snake, calling it a Dragon and reportedly blaming a deadly earthquake on it. Here’s the image, the caption of which supposedly read:
“A 120-metre [390-foot] giant dragon with a diameter of 1.5 metres jumped out of the water this afternoon, attracting thousands of people. Experts have flown here and it’s said the dragon had something to do with the earthquake.” (Source)
It’s funny to some of us, but there are many people who still have not heard of Photoshop and the ability of this program and others like it to easily doctor photos, to cut, resize and paste objects into different backgrounds.
What is the longest real snake ever recorded?
It depends on how reliable the answer needs to be.
It has been suggested that confident length records for the largest snakes must be established from a dead body soon after death, or alternatively from a heavily sedated snake, using a steel tape and in the presence of witnesses, and must be published (and preferably recorded on video). At least one reticulated python was measured under full anesthesia at 6.95 m (22 ft 10 in), and somewhat less reliable scientific reports up to 10 m (33 ft) have appeared.
Twenty-two feet is a safe answer, possibly up to thirty-three feet. In other words, there are no fifty-five foot snakes. Right? Well, there is a report by NBCNews that certainly beats the 33 ft record. This one is a claim in 2004 of a 49-foot snake, a reticulated python, captured in Indonesia. The story says it was updated 1/8/2004 10:00:23 AM ET.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesian villagers claim to have captured a python that is almost 49 feet long and weighs nearly 990 pounds, a local official said. If confirmed, it would be the largest snake ever kept in captivity. Hundreds of people have flocked to see the snake at a primitive zoo in Curugsewu village on the country’s main island of Java. Local government official Rachmat said the reticulated python measured 48 feet 8 inches and weighed in at 983 pounds. The Guinness Book of World Records lists the longest ever captured snake to be 32 feet. The heaviest — a Burmese Python kept in Gurnee, Ill. — weighs 402 pounds, the book said on its Web site. The Indonesian newspaper Republika said the snake, which was caught last year but only recently put on public display, eats three or four dogs a month.
The same claim is reported on2003 by the Scotsman.
MEASURING 49ft and weighing almost half a ton, the world’s largest snake has gone on display at a zoo in Indonesia, it was reported yesterday.
The Guardian also had this story Dec 30, 2003:
Officials at the zoo in Curugsewu, central Java, told the Republika newspaper that the reticulated python is 14.85m (49ft) long and has a maximum body circumference of 85cm (almost three feet). It weighs, they say, 447kg (70 stone, 3lbs). … Republika quoted a keeper at the zoo, Rohmad, as saying that when the unnamed snake was captured, in Jambi province on Sumatra in mid-2002, it was 19m long. … Rohmad said its diet includes three to four local dogs a month but that it is rather fussy about its food.
“We have given it dogs of various colours but this snake didn’t want to eat them,” he was quoted as saying. “It only wants to eat fierce brown dogs.”
The reticulated python (Python reticulatus) is the world’s longest and one of the heaviest snake species. While python is nonvenomous it is nevertheless dangerous to humans having been involved in quite a few incidents. (Source)
However, those who did some in person fact-checking said the snake was not as long as reported:
… The Guardian discovered when it sent a reporter out to actually measure the legendary snake, claims about the reptile’s size were rather exaggerated — their man measured Fragrant Flower, as the reticulated python is now known, at between 21 and 23 feet (6.5 to 7 meters) in length, and estimated its weight at about 220 pounds (100 kg).
Snake handler Imam Darmanto offered several reasons for the discrepancies in measurements:
“Look, you must understand that a python’s length is not constant. Depending on the weather, on how recently he has eaten and when he last shed his skin, Fragrant can stretch and contract a great deal. A few days ago he stretched himself out halfway round the cage. The reason he is not that large now is because he has not eaten for about six weeks and has just shed his skin so his body is quite firm at the moment. When he’s at his full length he’s much softer and I can push my finger in much further. And his body is much fatter too, perhaps up to 50cm in diameter. ..”
A Reuters photographer dispatched to the Curugsewu park to measure the talk-of-the-town snake obtained similar results:
Amid growing skepticism of the claim, a photographer working for Reuters returned to the Curugsewu park in the small central Java town of Kendal with a measuring tape. The snake’s true length — around 21 feet.
“I have no idea why the snake has shrunk,” said one keeper when asked about the discrepancy, as the snake lounged on a tree branch inside its cage.
The Guardian also quoted Richard Shine, a python expert from Sydney University, as noting that during his extensive research he had found pythons containing recently-eaten “monkeys, pigs and even porcupines but no dogs,” and that “these giant pythons always shrink whenever a tape measure turns up.”
So, this “49-foot” snake seems to be a confirmed case of major news outlets passing on claims before they are fully fact checked. With a good publication, you eventually get a correction. Still, many people heard about a 49-foot python in Indonesia and no doubt believed it. Plus, at the end of 2019, the story on NBCNews (from the Associated Press) 2004 is still online without a correction.
As a final check…
Do snakes even shrink?
A post on ResearchGate, a popular free non-Peer-reviewed journal, says they do, but not much.
During the period 1991 to 1999 we obtained recapture data for 918 snakes. Of these, 59 individual snakes were recorded as being smaller (lower snout-vent length,=SVL) at the second capture event than at the ﬁrst. However, even the largest of these apparent ‘‘shrinkages’’ was trivial compared to the size reductions of up to 20% reported for marine iguanas by Wikelski and Thom (2000). Among our ‘‘shrinking’’ water pythons, the mean SVL reduction was 1.07% (range 0.5–2.6%) or in absolute terms, 1.92 cm (range 1–5 cm). Unlike Wikelski and Thom (2000), we did not detect any signiﬁcant trend for larger snakes to shrink more or less than smaller animals … (Source)
Keep exercising that healthy skepticism, do your own fact checking if you have time, see what the other fact checkers say if you don’t, but even when you find scams in the world, don’t lose all faith and keep an open mind. Some truly amazing things are actually true. You will find years of them on this site. There are still plenty of good honest journalists among the baloney and honest mistakes.