In a sad case of opening too wide, an Australian pet python had to have emergency surgery to remove a pair of BBQ tongs he had unfortunately succeeded in gulping down.
Snacking on a tasty rat being fed to him by his owner using the metal tongs, Winston—a two-year-old woma python (Aspidites ramsayi)—wanted more and clasped onto the tongs. Assuming Winston would become bored of them, owner Aaron Rouse left him to play with them but upon returning, Rouse couldn’t see the now-missing tongs. And Winston was looking a little bulky…
“I was dumbfounded,” Rouse told 891 ABC Adelaide.
Realizing where the tongs were now lodged, Rouse rushed poor Winston to the Companion Animal Health Centre at the University of Adelaide. A 25-minute surgery was carried out by attendant veterinary surgeon Dr. Oliver Funnell with the help of student veterinarians, which saw Winston divested of the metal utensils.
The bulge in Winston's body where the tongs settled. Image Credit: Companion Animal Health Centre at University of Adelaide
Snakes are hypercarnivores, which means their diet is comprised of more than 70% meat, including fish, birds and other snakes. With no teeth to help them create bite-sized portions, snakes must swallow their prey whole. A flexible jaw (not a dislocated jaw as popular belief would have it) allows snakes to consume animals in one go—even if the prey is bigger than the snake.
Snakes do have the ability to regurgitate their food, especially doing so if disturbed or alarmed after consuming a meal to escape a potential threat. However, although Winston’s powerful stomach muscles kept the tongs firmly shut, the metal's serrated edges could still have harmed him had he tried to disgorge the tongs.
“You could feel the outline of the tongs through the snake,” said Funnell to CNN. "With reptiles, you have to make an incision between the scales and we just made it over the big end [of the tongs] because that was further away from some of the vital organs like the heart and the lungs. The clip was at the other end so these tongs would have been trying to expand the whole time, which would have been quite uncomfortable."
Days after surgery, Winston is in good health, drinking water and behaving normally, according to Funnell. He’s expected to make a quick recovery.
Post-surgery Winston. Image Credit: Companion Animal Health Centre at University of Adelaide