Cropped and enlarged “Boa” photo
Despite the “internet sensation” claim, Ananova is really the only news source on this one.
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.
“On the third dig, the operator found there was blood amongst the soil, and with a further dig, a dying snake appeared,” said the post.
“At the same time, another gold coloured giant boa appeared with its mouth wide open. The driver was paralysed with fear, while the other workers ran for their lives.
“By the time the workers came back, the wounded boa had died, while the other snake had disappeared. The bulldozer operator was so sick that he couldn’t even stand up.”
The post claimed that the digger driver was so traumatised that he suffered a heart attack on his way to hospital and later died.
The dead snake was 55ft (16.7m) long, weighed 300kg and was estimated to be 140 years old, according to the post.
However, local government officials in Guiping say the story and photograph are almost certainly a hoax as giant boas are not native to the area.
Anannova seems to have gotten the story from QuirkyChina, which claims to be quoting the People’s Daily for November 11th, but no such story turn up in a search of the English language edition of the paper’s web-site.
The use of the term “boa” is obviously inaccurate. Boa constrictors are native to the New World. The visible markings on the snake’s back, I think, identify it clearly enough as a reticulated python. And Chinese English news reports do clearly routinely refer to pythons (native to Asia) as “boas.”
This 40 k. (88 lbs.), 4 m. (13′) long reticulated python found by Yunnan villagers in this October 22, 2006 story is referred to as a “giant boa.”
There is a problem with range. Guping is a bit north of the generally described range of Python reticulatus.
Wikipedia estimated range of Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus)
Jiangxi Province, China
And there is a problem with the size. The photograph is obviously calculated to mislead. The snake is hanging from the bucket in the extreme foreground in an effort to induce viewers to take the people and cab behind as an indication of scale. If someone could identify the model of the backhoe, and could determine the actual size of the digging bucket, it would be pretty easy to come up with a more accurate estimate of the actual size of the snake.
Estimates of how large reticulated pythons can grow vary. Wikipedia says “more than 28 feet (8.7 m),” quoting Murphy/Henderson (1997). Wall (1926) proposes 30′ (9.14 m.). Oliver (1958) goes all the way up to 33′ (10.06 m.).
Yet, there is a news agency account, dated January 8, 2004, describing the capture in Indonesia of a nearly 49 foot (14.9 m.), 990 pound (450 k.) monster reticulated python, complete with 0:33 video.