A huge Burmese python caused a commotion yesterday afternoon at the Quarry Bay Promenade, attracting onlookers and biting the snake catcher that had come to subdue it.
The snake, which appeared to be several metres long, was perched on a ledge along the seaside walkway in the Promenade's pet garden and first seen around noon.
North Point police and fire department officials were notified and cordoned the area off “like a crime scene,” said Angie Scott, an animal rights activist who had been walking her dogs nearby.
“They were telling everyone to stay back and keep away because there was a giant snake there,” Scott said. “[The python] was on the other side of the high railing [surrounding the park], and if you looked over the railing and on the ledge the snake was sitting there sunning itself... How could it have ended up in Quarry Bay?”
A local snake catcher shortly arrived and was secured by a fire department harness as he leaned across the walkway ledge and attempted to place the python in a canvas bag.
According to Scott, the snake catcher temporarily lost control of the python, which coiled around his head and lower body and bit the man’s calf.
“There was blood all over the back of his left leg,” Scott said. “The bag wasn’t big enough to hold the snake… He had to call for the firemen to get him a bigger bag, and then he brought the snake onto land and was finally able to [secure] it there.”
A spokesperson for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department told the Post that the captured python was taken to a police station for holding and then transferred to Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, a New Territories wildlife sanctuary.
Kadoorie Farm workers confirmed the arrival of the python and said the snake would undergo a full health check.
North Point police were unavailable for immediate comment.
Burmese pythons, among the largest snakes in the world, are not venomous but lock onto their prey when they bite.
Dave Willot, an experienced Hong Kong snake handler, told the Post that sustaining bites when dealing with Burmese pythons was fairly common.
“Burmese pythons are aggressive; you need to keep them outstretched and can’t let them wrap themselves around you,” Willot said. “In some situations that may be difficult to do, and bites are sometimes [unavoidable].”
Willot added that in the wake of Hong Kong’s recent heavy rainfall, the snake had likely been swept away by mountain floods, finally ending up in Quarry Bay.
“Certainly nobody took it as a pet,” Willot said. “Pythons are aggressive snakes… It’s likely been washed down from the hillsides.”
Burmese python sightings are relatively rare in Hong Kong, but attacks on dogs are not unprecedented. Earlier this month a woman in Sai Kung West Country Park stabbed a five-metre python that attacked her two-year-old mongrel. In 2007, another woman rescued her dog from a 4.5 metre python.
Burmese pythons will generally not attack unless provoked. The snakes, regarded as Hong Kong’s biggest natural predators, can grow up to six metres long and are a protected species in the territory.