At the Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo, our adult chimpanzees spend their days roaming around a wild forest patch, foraging for fruits, socializing, and swinging from the trees. We bring them in at night for their dinner and to inspect their health. It’s rare for their routine to change. Therefore, you can imagine our surprise when the head caregiver at the dormitories called Dr. Rebeca Atencia, director of JGI-Congo and Tchimpounga’s lead veterinarian, about a surprise visitor: One of the chimpanzees had a python!
Rebeca ran down to the night house, and sure enough, Matondo, one of our largest adult females, had a 7-foot python draped over her shoulder like a sash. Initially, we feared the python was dead, but shortly after we arrived, it started to slither off Matondo’s back. Matondo carefully removed the python from her shoulder and placed it in her lap as if caring for a child.
Over the next two hours, we watched in wonder as Matondo played with the snake and protected it from the other chimps in the enclosure. We couldn’t leave the snake with the chimps overnight because of the potential danger: It could either hurt one of the chimps or be harmed or even killed. Fortunately, as the sun was setting, we managed to coax Matondo out of the night house without the python. Before leaving, she carefully tucked her new reptile friend into her nest, making sure it was safely hidden from the other chimps.
With all the chimps out of the night house, we were finally able to enter and retrieve the snake. Rebeca assessed the python for wounds and was shocked to find it completely unharmed! We took the snake to a nearby forest patch and released it back into the wild as the sun set beyond the horizon.
Needless to say, it took two of us to pry the snake off Rebeca’s arm! What a lucky snake! What an amazing adventure!
This article was contributed by Miles Woodruff.