Friday, January 31, 2014

You Can't Con A Kahn

Welcome back readers!  Here's a riddle for you: what has no arms, no legs, is white and yellow, and has allergies?
Kahn makes an appearance at a Birds in Concert performance (photo by Gay Schroer)
If you were thinking Khan the albino Burmese Python that resides at the World Bird Sanctuary, then you're correct!  This species is one of the largest snakes in the world!
Here is a picture of Kahn taking a bath outside.  He seems to love the water! (photo by Lisbeth Hodges)
Burmese Pythons (Python bivittatus) are native to Southeast Asia.  They are a popular reptile pet in the pet trade.  Their diet is mostly small mammals and they will also eat birds.

Burmese Pythons average up to 200 pounds and range from 8-16 feet long.  Kahn is on the smaller scale.  He is just shy of 13 feet and weighs 76 pounds.  The longest snake species in the world is the Reticulated Python.  They can get up to 33 feet long!  The heaviest living snake in the world is a Burmese Python named “Baby” that is 27 feet (8.23 meters) long and weighs 403 pounds (183 kilograms)!  If you visit the Serpent Safari Park in Illinois you can see him! 

Burmese Pythons are popular animals for people who want to have an exotic pet.  However, when purchasing their pet many people don’t realize how large they become. When they get too big for their owners they will sometimes be released into the wild.  At other times these giant snakes will escape from their homes and become feral animals.

These snakes were first reported around the year 2000 in the Everglades National Park here in the U.S., and have been a problem ever since. They have proliferated in the  Everglades in Florida and are now considered an invasive species.  Between 2000 and 2002, over 1,800 were removed from the area by the National Park Service.  The Park Service believes it is only a small fraction of what is still present today.

Kahn came to us from a friend of Walter Crawford, Executive Director of the World Bird Sanctuary.  He is at least twenty years old now.  The normal lifespan is 20-25 years in the wild, but can increase up to 30-35 years in captivity. 

One of the most frequent questions that I get asked is, “Is that snake poisonous?” Snakes are not poisonous.  Snakes are either venomous or non-venomous.  All the snakes at World Bird Sanctuary are non-venomous constrictors.  The term constrictor refers to how some snakes kill their prey.  Kahn’s diet consists of frozen, then thawed rabbits.  When he is given the rabbit, he first constricts (squeezes) it for a period of time.  If the rabbit is large enough, Kahn then unhinges his jaw and slowly starts to swallow. 

In the beginning of the blog I mentioned allergies.  Yes, this snake does have allergies! He has seasonal allergies just like people!  We check his nose every day and give him drops as necessary.  He also has a humidifier in his exhibit to help keep the air moist around him.  Kahn has a unique color mutation called albinism that affects the pigment in his skin.  Below you can view a picture of a normal colored Burmese next to a close up picture of Kahn.
Normal colored Burmese Python (photo from the Wikimedia Commons files)

Close-up of Kahn (photo by Lisbeth Hodges)
Kahn is available for adoption in our Adoption program.  To find out more information, call 636-861-3225.  All adoption donations are tax deductible. 

This season Kahne can be seen at the nature center at the World Bird Sanctuary, which is open daily from 8am-5pm. 

Kahn is a very handsome snake; you should stop on by and visit him! 

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

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