Green Snake Terror – Morelia viridis

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I have some serious business to discuss this morning, but first I want to convey to you this light-hearted missive from reader John Burke of Queensland:

I have been reading your journals for some time and enjoy them.  I spent 12 months in Lae in 1965 then 5 years in Mt. Hagen.  My home is now in Burpengary, Queensland, Australia.  Our local General Practitioner [doctor – ed.]  asked me one day if I had any pictures of spiders in PNG.  I saved copies of the ones you placed in your articles and gave them to him. Looking at the first Pic the Doctor reeled in horror.  It turned out that the man had a Phobia and was trying to come to terms with it.  All the photos of spiders I have given to him.  It think it has helped him.

Sincerely, John Burke.

Thanks, John, for that sweet bit of country humour. My only question is, who is Gary and why is he burpin’? But, seriously folks, it is nice to see that my daily toils might ultimately serve some more noble purpose than providing yet another tactic to while away a few more minutes of a tedious day at the office.

Now, down to the business at hand.

The Green Tree Python (Morelia viridis)  is one little sweetie of a snake. My old buddy at Nob Nob Mountain, Tag Tap, called me to tell me that he had a green snake for me. We’ve enjoyed many bush walks together and he shares my love for all of nature’s creatures. I asked him to send it down to Madang for me, since I’m tied up all week in our Annual General Meeting and could not get up there to take photos of it.

Here is the little beauty getting comfortable on my hand:Every experience that I have had with this species has been highly pleasant. If it has been in the shade, it will feel cool to the touch and will be very sluggish and placid. As it warms up in the sun it becomes a little more active and may attempt to escape. It soon gets comfortable with being handled. Its skin is very smooth and soft, feeling much like human skin.

Here is another shot of me holding the snake:It looks as if I’m strangling it, but my hold is very loose. The snake, however, will surprise you if it gets snugly wrapped around a finger or wrist. It can squeeze very hard. It got a single coil around one of my fingers and it constricted so tightly that my finger began to turn blue. I had to get someone to help me to gently unwrap it.

Here I am looking more ridiculous than usual:

My friend Carol Dover calls the outfit my “little gay-boy shorts”. This shot reminds me of the character Lt. Dangle from Reno 911.  Hey, they’re comfortable and breezy. I’m happy and firmly fixed in my gender and don’t mind looking silly. I’ve made a career of it. I do admit that my legs look too skinny, but that ‘s the camera angle.

But, this about the snake, not me. Here’s my old friend and co-worker Steve wearing a Green Tree Pyton and firmly grippnig the handle of a pint of Guinness:

No, I lie. It’s coffee. I can tell because there is no delicious creamy head on it. Besides, I’ve never known Steve to imbibe.

I can’t wrap this up without showing you a close-up of the head of this beautiful creature:

It looks ferocious, but I’ve never, as many times as I’ve handled this species, seen the slightest inclination to bite. Your mileage may vary.

I had considered taking this voracious rat eater home and letting it loose in my garden, where it’s services would be greatly appreciated. Unfortunately, given the (understandable) paranoia among nearly all Papua New Guineans concerning all snakes I was worried that it would not survive its first encounter with a human. That’s not even considering the reaction of our dog, Sheba. So, being mindful of the snake’s welfare, we packed it back up and sent it back up to Nob Nob with a request that Tag Tap release it again to it’s natural home.

I’ll wrap this up by announcing that my sweet Eunie, my wife and best friend for over 45 years, was yesterday elected Director of The Pioneer Bible Translators Association of Papua New Guinea, Incorporated. Her previous position was Director of Support Services, meaning that she was my boss. She’s now the Big Cheese, the Head Honcho, The Boss, the Capo di tutti capi.

My situation hasn’t changed.

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13 Responses to “Green Snake Terror – Morelia viridis”

  1. Steven Goodheart Says:

    Ah, what beauty that python is! The head close-up is stunning. May that beautiful beastie have a long and healthy life….interesting coincidence, today I came across a loving-kindness (metta) that the Buddha gave his followers to be safe from poisonous snakes (a real problem in India, as you know)….it included sending love and well-wishes to the various “royal tribes” of snakes, so that the “footless” would do no harm…fascinating….

  2. Fortescue Bullrout Says:

    The most beautiful snake in the world. They have a blue form, keep an eye out for it.

  3. MadDog Says:

    Steven, that sounds very much the same as wisdom passed down in Native American beliefs. A striking similarity and sentiments not found in the Judeo-Christian philosophy.

  4. Steve Goodheart Says:

    MadDog, I agree…there’s great wisdom about animals and nature in Native American beliefs…there was always a great feeling of respect for the animals they hunted, and they even asked forgiveness of the buffalo, for example, that they killed…and then, they used every single part of the buffalo, unlike the “great white hunters” who drove the buffalo almost to extinction for the sheer “sport” of hunting them and piling up mountains of hides…..

    Actually, I think the best in Christianity is rediscovering the idea of stewardship of the Earth…that the God-given dominion spoken of in Genesis is not a license to use the Earth as a commodity, but that this dominion is like God’s own dominion, that of Love, not domination, but tender fathering and mothering of all beings and the sense that life is a great gift, even here on what is not yet redeemed by Love’s dominion…..

  5. MadDog Says:

    Thanks for that, Fortescue. I did notice a considerable amount of blue around the edge of each scale and a blue patch behind the head. I was wondering if this was variable. I’ll ask Tag Tap to find me a blue one. If anybody can do it, he can. He’s a real bush master.

  6. MadDog Says:

    Thanks, Steven. The first paragraph is a nice encapsulation of the respect of nature characteristic of Native American beliefs. Some believe that this is shared by animists in general. One has only to examine the animism of many Melanesians to understand that this is not true.

    I agree with you that the principles revealed in Genesis should guide Christians to be good stewards of the planet. Unfortunately, there is not much of that stewardship in practice today.

    Your thoughtful comments are always appreciated.

  7. Steve Goodheart Says:

    Hey Jan, great qualification about animism….it runs runs the gamut, for sure….I’ve read some anthropological work that indicates some Native Americans, like the Sioux, went beyond typical animism with their idea of the Great Spirit, but it’s easy to romanticize or project our beliefs on others….still, I remember how much I enjoyed “Black Elk Speaks” and some other classics of that sort….

    Thanks, Jan. Yes, as I said, this stewardship idea is *very* new and fragile….and there seems to be more promotion of that from eco-groups than religious groups, but I hope it takes root and grows….by the way, though people sometimes romanticize Eastern religions as being less “imperial” or “closer to nature” than western religions, in fact, homo sapiens has been a bane to most animals and plants and ecosystems throughout history….I think, for example, of the Early Mississippian native American culture (the mound builders) in the central US….overpopulation, deforestation, and overhunting (along with, probably, climate change) led to the collapse of their culture…..many of the mass extinctions of pre-historic animals were probably due to man…..if we as a species can make it out of babyhood, we are going to be very, very fortunate, and I know you’re not so optimistic about that! 🙂

  8. Colin Huggins Says:

    Great shots – but no way would I be so up and cuddily with any sort of reptile. Having had one bite me in PNG and being quite sure I was going to die when being driven to the Mission Hospital at Butaweng just outside Finschhafen. The snake turned out to be a python – about 8 foot long when the “kalabus boys” found it the next day. Sorry to report, the said snake was dispatched to “the happy hunting grounds” ( or wherever snake heaven is!).
    Actually when I look back at snake incidents in the 1960’s in PNG, they are quite funny.

  9. Steve Goodheart Says:

    Jan, speaking of nature, and loving it and all the plants and beasties, I hope you don’t mind my mentioning here that I just made a post over at my Extreme Science site on the movie “Avatar” and how it seems to be inspiring people to look at nature and its creatures with new eyes. Have some great nature images, too.

    Check it out:


  10. MadDog Says:

    Steven, I hope I get to see it someday. First-run movies arrive here only as the pirates dictate. I am really looking forward to it.

    Since you’re plugging your post on my site (and you’re entirely welcome to do so) I’ll plug my Mantis Shrimp image here at:

    Great post with a timely subject – ought to get you a lot of hits.


  11. MadDog Says:

    Colin, I had a great number of “pet” snakes when I was a kid, so I’ve never felt an aversion to them. However, I can’t say that I’ve ever been bitten, except for the little nips that you get when a garter snake has had enough manhandlng. It’s helpful to be able to recognise snake varieties here so that one can avoid the needless panic that you suffered. An eight foot python can deliver a viscious bite, but, aside from infection, hardly life threatening as you obviously learned after the fact.

    It is sad that indigenous people tend to kill any snake that they see. I’ve tried to affect this attitude where possible with mixed results.

    I enjoy your stories as do our readers, I’m sure. Drop in any time.


  12. Steve Goodheart Says:

    Jan, so glad you left a post at my joint about my all-time reef favorite, the mantis shrimp. After doing an “extreme science” about them for a 5th grade science textbook, I was totally enthralled by them.

    Thanks sharing references here. I’m actually working on a new post that’s going to feature a number of your photos, and no, it’s not our beloved nudibranches…another beastie you and I both enjoy a lot…. I hope to get that nudibranch post out later this next week…..damn, you have some great images of them! It will make the visual part of the post a dream to do.

    Best wishes,

  13. Ray Ryan Says:

    Very cool!!!! I like these. hehe…