Although Singapore has a predominantly urban landscape, the reticulated python – which holds the record for being the world’s longest snake – is one of the most frequently encountered snakes on the island. It is often found in residential compounds and industrial warehouses.
When members of the public find a snake in their homes, they typically get in touch with agencies such as the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) or the Singapore Police Force. These agencies respond to calls from the public and bring captured pythons to Singapore Zoo.
Although reticulated pythons are frequently found as road kill, anecdotal observations seem to suggest that they are primarily utilising the underground network of drains and monsoon canals rather than crossing busy ground surfaces.
Using radio- and GPS-telemetry, this study conducted by Mary-Ruth Low investigated, firstly, aspects of their spatial ecology such as home range, habitat use, average daily movement rate, and secondly, their homing ability, as exhibited in some of the recaptured individuals found at their initial capture site despite being translocated over large distances.
28 individuals were radio-tracked from February 2014 to February 2016. Approximately 60 per cent of these snakes moved out of secondary forests into the forest edge and urban areas, including areas such as HDB car parks and town parks.
The overall mortality rate was 14 per cent, possibly due to stress and road-related mortality. Findings from this study are currently being written up for publication.
This research provides information on the movement patterns and survival of translocated reticulated pythons in Singapore. This information will be useful for governmental and non-governmental agencies in making informed management decisions for these reptiles.
The information will also act as a baseline to examine the significance of the species’ role in urban pest control and disease ecology. Simultaneously, this research will help substantiate educational and outreach events of the reticulated python’s role in our ecosystem, in order to change people’s perception that they are “harmful pests”, but are rather “useful rat control”.