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A Python Swallowed an Indonesian Palm Oil Farmer Whole

Experts say deforestation forced the snake to seek alternative food sources.

by Katherine Gillespie
29 March 2017, 11:00pm

Image via footage from Viral Press

This article originally appeared on VICE Australia. 

25-year-old Indonesian palm oil farmer Akbar Salubiro has been found deceased inside the stomach of a seven metre long python, the Jakarta Post reports. The man's body was identified by neighbours who found snake and identified the outline of their friend's gumboots in its engorged stomach. The reptile was reclining just metres from its victim's home.

Salubiro, a married father of two, went missing from his remote village on the island of Sulawesi on March 26 after leaving his house to harvest palm oil nearby, and neighbours reportedly heard cries of pain on the night of his disappearance. When they spotted the python on Wednesday, they cut open its belly with a knife to reveal their friend's body completely intact.

It's unlikely that Salubiro was eaten alive. Rather, he was probably strangled by the snake first, before being swallowed whole. The footage of his corpse being removed from the python's belly can be viewed on YouTube, if you're interested in that sort of thing.

Pythons don't typically eat humans, and according to agriculture lecturer Rahmansyah from Hasanuddin University in Makassar, habitat loss caused by Indonesia's lucrative palm oil industry may be at least partly responsible for the snake's unusual decision to go after human prey.

"Because the habitat is destroyed, the snake's natural food sources are also affected. Thus, the snake went out to the palm oil plantation to seek prey," he told the Jakarta Post.

The academic told the news outlet that the wild rainforest which was the python's natural habitat had been infringed upon by palm oil plantations, and that this pattern is being repeated more and more frequently as forests disappear and are replaced by farms. "It's becoming more difficult for the animals to find their natural food," he said.

Junaedi, the secretary of Salubiro village in West Sulawesi, told the Post that the last time a similarly sized python was found in the village was in the 1990s, back when the palm oil industry first arrived in the area. Other palm oil harvesters are now reportedly staying home instead of visiting plantations out of fear of similar incidents.

Indonesia is the world's largest producer of palm oil, which is widely exported throughout Asia. Threats to endangered rainforest species have induced its government to issue a five-year moratorium on new palm oil plantation permits.

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