Herpetologist and curator at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, USA, John Seyjagat, believes the 220-pound anaconda discovered in Caroni on December 30 could be one of the largest snakes seen in the southern hemisphere within the last 30 to 40 years.
Seyjagat, who was born in T&T and was formerly the senior keeper at the Emperor Valley Zoo, will return to Trinidad on Tuesday to inspect the snake, which is 17 feet, nine inches long. It was captured by security guards on patrol near a private road opposite the Caroni cremation site.
Since its captured it has remained at the zoo, where it is being kept in a glass and concrete enclosure and is receiving regular veterinary care. Its widest part measures 32 inches in circumference but despite speculation that it was pregnant, an ultrasound on Wednesday showed no signs of pregnancy.
In a telephone interview with the T&T Guardian yesterday, Seyjagat said the anaconda would be the largest one he had ever seen in person, adding that in the 1980s he captured a 14-foot anaconda in Matura, along the northeast coast of Trinidad.
Seyjagat said, based on pictures and information he has received, the snake “looks to be in good health and has no parasites on its body.”
He said he knew blood was found in samples of the snake’s mucus as a result of abrasions caused to its throat after being tied up with a rope.
“Right now,” he said, “the zoo is the best place for her to allow for medical observation, regulation of internal heat, rest and relaxation.”
Although on Wednesday president of the Zoological Society Gupte Lutchmedial estimated the anaconda to be around ten years old, Seyjagat believes the snake must be between 16 and 18.
He said a snake is born at around two feet long and grows rapidly at a rate of around a foot a year.
Explaining why it might have been discovered slithering across a private road, Seyjagat said it was most likely in an attempt to gather heat from the sun, owing to low temperatures at this time of the year.
“If that snake ate something recently, within the following weeks it would have to thermoregulate in order to digest its food. This is probably why she came out in the afternoon and was discovered.”
One of his aims will be to find out where the snake came from.
He said one concern he had about relocating the animal to the wild as planned was that anacondas have a “home range” and the snake might have a tendency to go in search of its previous home.
He said in that case it could end up on another roadway or in a family’s backyard and would most likely be killed, owing to the fear that most people have of snakes.