A Japanese Man Kept an 11-Foot Python as a Pet and It Just Went Missing

Reticulated pythons are not venomous, but can constrict their prey to death within minutes.
snake, japan, python
The missing python is 11-foot-long and weighs over 28 pounds. For illustrative purposes only. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/ Corbis via Getty Images

An 11-foot-long pet python escaped from a Japanese man’s home on Thursday in the country’s second-most populous city, prompting a search and sending shudders through the local community.

The snake was kept in a cage in a second-floor apartment in the Japanese city of Yokohama—or so its owner thought. When he went home on Thursday evening after work, the man found the cage door open and his pet, a 28-pound reticulated python, was gone, according to police in the Kanagawa prefecture.

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“The window was a little open, so it might’ve escaped from there,” he said, Mainichi Shimbun reported.

Reticulated pythons are not venomous, but they are ambush predators and naturally hunt mammals. The pythons usually wait for prey to come within striking range, then seize it in its coils before constricting it to death. They can kill their prey within minutes. 

It does not normally hunt humans, but there have been reports of reticulated pythons eating people. A 25-year-old Indonesian farmer was swallowed whole in 2017.

Local authorities have issued an emergency warning, asking people to stay away from grassy areas. A snake research and exhibition center has advised pet owners to take their pets indoors. 

The snake remained at large as of Friday evening and was one of the most searched topics nationally in Japan throughout the day, according to Google Trends.

“I’m so horrified. Small children could be swallowed whole. I can’t take my kids to the park,” one Twitter user said. 

“Pythons are 200 million times scarier than the coronavirus,” another user tweeted. 

The reticulated python is the world’s longest snake. Native to South and Southeast Asia, they can live up to 40 years. 

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In 2017, a 25-year-old Indonesian farmer Akbar Salubiro was found in a 23-foot-long reticulated python. Salubiro had gone missing for a couple of days when the village police found a motionless python in a ditch near Salubiro’s family plantation. The snake’s belly was cut open and the man’s body was found inside.

Less than a year later, another reticulated python in Indonesia swallowed Wa Tiba, a 54-year-old woman, when she was checking on her vegetable garden. Her sandals and machete were found near the bloated python. 

To keep the reticulated python as a pet, the Yokohama man, who has not been identified, obtained a special license from the city government in 2017. According to the NHK, the man lives near a residential area about 1.2 miles from a train station. There’s also an elementary school nearby.

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