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.