An­i­mal an­tics

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SENIOR - – By Majorie Chiew

EVEN an­i­mals get a new lease of life – through a twist of fate. Like Big Momma the retic­u­lated python, and Tai Kor, a cock­erel. They were meant to be sac­ri­fices, but thanks to hu­man kind­ness, they get to live longer and need not worry where their next meal will come from.

Th­ese two crea­tures are denizens at the snake farm at Pe­nang Snake Tem­ple in Bayan Lepas, Pe­nang.

Big Momma, a 7m retic­u­lated python, spends most days coiled in a cor­ner. If you’re lucky, you get to en­ter its cage for a closer in­spec­tion if there is a staff mem­ber around. How­ever, a sign out­side the cage warns: “We don’t guar­an­tee your exit.”

“This snake was pre­sented to the farm as a gift on April 11, 2011,” says P.H. Chew, who man­ages the snake farm part-time. “The boss of an auto spare parts com­pany, bought the snake from a wild game seller in Bal­ing, Kedah. The python was sup­posed to be killed and skinned.”

But it looks like it’s time is not up yet, and it gets to live, thanks to some­one’s kind­ness.

Af­ter two weeks at the farm, Big Momma laid a clutch of eggs.

“We tried to hatch the eggs, but they were in­fer­tile. The snake re­fused to eat for months. Maybe it was too stressed or de­pressed be­cause of its cap­tiv­ity.

“Nowa­days, Big Momma has a good ap­petite. It can eas­ily swal­low a big goat, but due to bud­get con­straints, it is fed with chick­ens only. We nor­mally give her three to four chick­ens a week, ex­cept when she is molt­ing or shed­ding skin.”

The snake farm also houses do­mes­ti­cated an­i­mals and mon­keys. Meet Tai Kor, a big cock­erel with an at­ti­tude. It’s called Tai Kor (Can­tonese for big boss) be­cause it struts around the farm like a boss.

Three years ago, a vis­i­tor brought the cock­erel as a meal for Goldie the al­bino python. It was prob­a­bly to thank the snake for a windfall af­ter a visit to the farm.

“How­ever, my wife Con­nie took pity on the cock­erel and de­cided to spare its life,” says Chew. Tai Kor earned its keep by amus­ing chil­dren, es­pe­cially those from the Mid­dle East, who have never seen a rooster be­fore.

Some visi­tors are taken aback by the sound of laugh­ter next to the caged mon­keys. Ap­par­ently, the ducks “laughed”.

“We raised the laugh­ing ducks and named them Don­ald and Daisy,” says Chew. “Ac­tu­ally, the ducks are quack­ing, but some­times their quacks sounded like laugh­ter.”

Another at­trac­tion at the farm is the gi­ant river ter­rapin which is of­ten mis­taken for a gi­ant tor­toise.

“This cen­tury-old ter­rapin spends most of the time rest­ing at a cor­ner of the farm. It wades into a pool when it gets hun­gry. Af­ter a meal of bread or fruits, it will re­turn to the same cozy cor­ner to rest,” shares Chew. Some­times, the ter­rapin may get a lit­tle bored and crawls into the tem­ple grounds to ex­plore its sur­round­ings, but it knows when to re­turn to the farm.

The three mon­keys were left be­hind by the cou­ple who were snake han­dlers at the farm in the early days. The mon­keys are called Baby (the youngest), Kakak and Jumbo (which has her­nia).

“We don’t train the mon­keys. My wife and daugh­ter talk to them ev­ery­day and they can un­der­stand a few words. Baby is the cutest and Kakak is a busy­body.

“How­ever, Jumbo is the smartest of the three. He knows how to give a high-five and can even use his tail to reach for food,” says Chew.

But come April, Chew will have to sur­ren­der the mon­keys to the Wildlife Depart­ment. Ac­cord­ing to the depart­ment’s new rul­ing, the mon­keys’ en­clo­sure is not big enough.

Tai Kor the rooster has a com­mand­ing view of the sur­round­ings, perched on P.H. Chew’s shoul­der.

The gi­ant river ter­rap­ine is of­ten mis­taken for a tor­toise.

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