The second sign was a severely bloated snake encountered by a search party the next morning in search of Jahrah.
“During the search, the team found a giant python measuring 7 meters in length [22 feet] of the length that we suspected she had exploited the victim,” local police later said in a statement, in which the victim was referred to simply as ” Jahrah,” in line with Indonesian custom of giving only one name “The team caught the snake.”
The search team killed the reptile and cut open its abdomen, where they discovered Jahrah’s remains fully intact.
“The victim’s body was not destroyed when we found her in the queue, meaning she had only recently been swallowed whole,” police said after spotting the reptile near the village of Betara in Indonesia’s Jambi province found on the island of Sumatra.
Non-venomous pythons usually prefer not to attack humans, instead feeding on smaller animals – which they secure with a non-venomous bite before suffocating by constriction and then eating.
But occasionally humans become their prey.
Snake conservationist Nathan Rusli, director of the Indonesia Herpetofauna Foundation, suspects a reticulated python was probably responsible. The species is the only reptile living in Sumatra’s Jambi province large enough to eat an adult human, he told the Washington Post.
“They’re constrictors, so they wrap their bodies around you. They will give you a death hug. You breathe in and your body shrinks, it hardens and you can’t breathe out,” Rusli explained. “A snake’s upper and lower jaws are connected by ligaments, they’re quite flexible. They can swallow prey larger than their heads.”
Confirmed reports like this are relatively rare, occurring about once a year.
“Most cases are cases of farmers working on rubber and cocoa plantations in Sumatra and Sulawesi, most cases occur at night,” Indonesian snake expert Djoko Iskandar, a professor at the Bandung Institute of Technology, told The Post. Only extremely long reptiles are capable of successfully preying on adult humans, with the smallest Indonesian python known to have been involved in a deadly encounter still being over 18 feet long, Iskandar said.
Encounters between pythons and humans are becoming more common in Indonesia as humans encroach on their increasingly threatened habitats, snake experts say.
2017, A 25-year-old villager on the island of Sulawesi was discovered inside a 23-foot python, suspected of killing him. The following year, this time on the island of Muna, a A 54-year-old woman checking her corn crop was swallowed whole in an area of the country known for its population of reticulated pythons.
Deforestation, which robs snakes of their natural habitat and food sources, has been cited by experts as a factor in the increasing frequency of deadly encounters between reptiles and humans. Indonesia has lost 18 percent of its total tree population since 2000, mostly as a result of deforestation, they say current data from Global Forest Watch.
“If you destroy the forest, the natural habitat of these animals, where will they go?” asked Ruesli. “Especially when an area is fragmented, they have to traverse human settlements to get to another part of the forest.”
In addition, garbage, rats and pets associated with human life are easy prey for snakes looking for food, another attraction of the towns and villages that are increasingly encroaching on their habitat. The pythons are also more likely to be hungry as there is more competition from humans for the same food prey.
“It would be good not to demonize the snake too much,” suggested Rusli.
Dera Menra Sijabat in Bali contributed to the reporting.