Six Pythons Emerge as Plot of Land Cleared in Phnom Penh

An excavator operator clearing a patch of land in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district had a surprise run-in on Friday with six pythons, which broke cover as his machine moved onto their wetland habitat, according to a local official.

“The man who was clearing a plot of forestland saw six pythons appear one by one and he reported to us,” said Toek Thla commune chief Tan Navin. “The biggest ones are about 30 kg each and the smallest ones are about 10 kg each and about 2 to 3 meters long.”

The pythons were captured and taken to Phnom Tamao Zoo, according to Mr. Navin, who said the snakes were not alone in the exodus.

“It was not only pythons but also turtles and other species that were seen,” he said.

According to Chhith Sam Ath, country director of environmental protection group WWF, it is not uncommon for pythons to live near lakes in the city. But as their natural habitats are taken over by development projects, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the snakes to find a safe haven.

“Because the forests have been cut and the lakes filled with soil, the pythons living nearby do not know where to go,” he said. “It is not only recently that the pythons have lived in the city, they have lived here for a long time.”

Though pythons can grow up to eight meters in length and weigh as much as 180 kg, the nonvenomous and generally docile snakes pose little threat to humans and eat small- to medium-sized animals such as rats, chickens and pigs.

In a separate incident on Saturday, two pythons were spotted by a villager in Dangkao district’s Pong Toek commune, according to commune police chief Van Saroeun.

“A pair of pythons was found when a villager went into the land to look for his chickens,” Mr. Saroeun said, adding that the owner of the land asked authorities to let the serpents stay.

“We did not catch them because the owner of the house said he wants to keep them to protect his land,” he said.

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