Microchips help track released reptiles

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 July, 2012, 12:00am


Releasing pythons into the Hong Kong countryside after tagging them with microchips could provide crucial information about the habits and movements of the endangered species.

Surprisingly little is known about the behaviour of Burmese pythons in the wild and it is not known how territorial they are or whether they return to their old hunting grounds when they are moved.

However, Hong Kong snake catcher Dave Willott said there was some anecdotal evidence suggesting pythons might have a homing instinct that leads them back to their original territory even if they are released in a different area.

There are no recorded cases of pythons attacking humans in Hong Kong although there have been cases of attacks on pet cats and dogs and attempts to eat newborn calves.

One particularly aggressive four-metre python living near the entrance to the Sai Kung Country Park is thought to be responsible for three attacks on pet dogs in the same area between 2006 and 2010.

In its first recorded attack, the python crushed a 22kg pet husky named Paro to death. Esther Leenders, 32, kicked the snake and tried to pull it off her pet but it coiled tighter around the dog until it was dead.

The python then turned towards Leenders before slithering away. 'We had eye contact and I felt very vulnerable. It had no fear and you could see it had no natural predator,' she said.

A year later, Catherine Leonard, 41, fought off the python when it attacked her dog Poppy on the same trail. 'I kicked it and I tried to pull Poppy free. The snake was twisted around her. Somehow Poppy managed to get away and the python slithered away,' she said.

Two years ago, teacher Robert Stearns, 60, used an umbrella and his bare hands to stop the python crushing his 15kg pet dog Phoebe to death.