Reticulated Python Predation on Humans in the Philippines

A 6.9 m  reticulated python,  shot by 
Kekek Aduanan, on the right, on
 June 9, 1970, Luzon, Philippines.  
Photo by J. Headland.

In a forth coming article, published early on-line today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Thomas Headland and Harry Greene document the frequency of python attacks on a tribe of hunter-gatherers in the Philippines, this is the only study to quantify the danger that snakes pose to humans. Anthropologist Headland lived among the Agta Negritos since 1962, and interviewed 58 men and 62 women regarding their interactions with reticulated pythons. Fifteen of the men (26 percent) and one of the women (1.6 percent) had been attacked, and the interviews recalled six fatal attacks that occurred between 1934 and 1973, although Headland could only confirm two fatal attacks on children. The attacks usually occured on men while they walked in the forest, but 15 of the individuals interviewed remembered a python entering a dwelling at sunset and killing two of three children, swallowing one of them. The data compiled suggests that one tramatic or fatal attack occurs every two to three years in the Agta tribe. The report also focuses on the complex interaction between humans and snakes, so while pythons prey on humans, humans also prey on snakes. Headland documented a 6.9 m reticulated python killed, dressed in less than an hour that provided about 25 kg of meat (see photo).

Headland T. N. and H. W. Greene. 2011. Hunter–gatherers and other primates as prey, predators, and competitors of snakes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, early on-line doi:10.1073/pnas.1115116108

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