A family in Australia were concerned when they realized their peckish pet python made the unfortunate decision to swallow an entire beach towel. After rushing the 18-year-old female to the vets, it took an entire team of clinicians to safely pull out the enormous piece of fabric using forceps. An amazing video of a forceps-eye-view of the procedure gives a glimpse of the internal plumbing of a python’s body.
The greedy girl in question is Monty Python, a 3-meter (almost 10-foot) jungle carpet python. These beautiful danger noodles are growing in popularity as pets, coveted for their patterned scales that blend vibrant yellow stripes with dashes of velvet-black. They’re native to a small region of the northwestern Australian rainforests where they live in trees, usually feeding on living prey such as rodents and birds.
Snakes don’t usually predate on big inanimate textiles, but this isn’t the first time a snake has been reported eating something dangerously large. Pythons aren’t afraid of a big meal and have been spotted chowing down on goats and kangaroos. They're able to consume such enormous prey thanks to their complex jaw morphology and flexible skulls. But for all snakes, just because it fits doesn't mean it always sits as this unfortunate snake discovered when he took on a particularly large centipede.
When stressed and overheated, snakes have even been known to eat themselves in a bizarre and tragic behavior known as autosarcophagy. Snakes found doing this can sometimes be stopped by cooling them down with water, but usually require veterinary intervention. Unfortunately, prying a snake from its own jaws can be difficult due to the positioning of their teeth and they often die as a result.
Monty Python was caught by her owners finishing off her unconventional snack and taken to the SASH Avian and Exotics department. Here she was anesthetized as clinicians got to work assessing how to best remove the towel from inside the reptile. Following an X-ray, radiographs of the unconscious animal confirmed the start of the towel was about 1-meter (3.3 feet) from the mouth.
Using a flexible endoscope, a tool commonly used in human surgery to assess the upper digestive tract, the team were able to find the fabric mass and managed to clasp it with some long, slender forceps before pulling it out.
“Once we had a good grip, the towel was able to be carefully removed from the gastrointestinal tract with endoscopic guidance,” veterinarians from the SASH Avian and Exotics department said in a post on Instagram. “It was smiles all round and we are happy to report that both Monty and the beach towel have lived to see another day!”
Monty Python was discharged from the hospital later in the same day and is said to be back to her “usual hungry self”, but whether the towel will survive to see another day at the beach is still unknown.