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How a great snake, attended by alarums and excursions, made it from an Asian jungle to the National Zoo and so, eventually, to its present berth in a Smithsonian museum
A huge, female reticulated python "slithers" high on the wall on the second floor of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. It is just above a diorama of fellow giant reptiles - a cheetah-size Komodo dragon, a turtle as big as an umbrella, and a king cobra, the longest species of venomous snake in the world.
When the python died of natural causes at the National Zoo in 1944, it weighed 305 pounds and was nearly 25 feet long. In its native habitat it must have been even longer, as part of its prehensile tail was missing, but it would have had to grow several feet more to rival the longest snake ever known to science, another Python reticulatus, which measured in at nearly 33 feet.
This particular python's origins are obscure. One line of evidence suggests it came from India, but the snake could have been caught in Burma, Malaya or the Philippines. Perhaps it came to the Zoo in 1937, along with some 2,000 animals that then director William Mann bagged during a joint Smithsonian-National Geographic expedition to Southeast Asia. If so, being snatched from the wild may have saved the python from becoming rations for guerrilla fighters in …