The Snake Trip

Last week, we LEAPers went on a little trip to visit the home of Ron Lilley, a snake expert, to see if he would be generous enough to donate the body of a snake. We wanted to harvest its bones and use its skeleton for our animal bone project. We have been burying animal carcases to dissolve their flesh and then later digging them up to put their bones back together and make a whole skeleton. Our plan is to use the skeletons in science classes here at our school for real display models. In our search for a perfectly preserved dead snake, we knew Ron’s house was probably going to be the place to find it.

Burying our cow’s skull

Our group all jumped on one of the Bio Buses and we were off on our journey. After about an hour long ride we finally arrived. The bus stopped by the side of a desolate road out in the middle of nowhere. There was just a single dirt path trailing off the side of a road lined with a couple compounds, but other than that, everything else was dry earth and rice paddies. We walked on foot down the dirt path passing the compounds until we reached a turn and a dead end. Ron had told us the house was at the end of the road and that he would open the door for us, so we just stood there for a minute waiting to see which driveway door would open. Suddenly the door at the end of the road creaked open and Ron welcomed us in. We entered to see a driveway and a small archway leading through to a central courtyard.

As we walked underneath the arch and into the courtyard, we saw that the vast, open compound was on a slope. At the bottom of the slope was a pool, next to which were two buildings. The building on the right was a small, oldish one that had a pair dark wooden doors. And on the left, was a large, two-story villa painted all white. This was the building Ron lead us to. We entered a very long room that reached all the way to the back of the building — a living room of sorts, but since the whole first floor was one room it was more of just a chill area. Ron invited us to sit on a pair of wooden couches close to the door and brought us some glasses of water.

He already knew we had come to see if we could get a dead snake body since we had informed him beforehand, but he wanted to know a bit more about our project and exactly what we were doing with these animal carcases. So we explained our project. After that, we asked Ron a couple of questions about his line of work, which is capturing snakes that people call to inform him of. He explained in depth about how he goes about his job and the risks involved. A bit of time passed while we had this very interesting conversation. I, at least, (can’t speak for the rest of the group) learned some things I never knew about catching snakes (not that I knew much about snake catching beforehand).

Ron then took us to the other building across from the house — the somewhat ominous one with the dark wood doors. It even had a “Danger: Venomous Snakes” sign on the front. As Ron opened the doors and we stepped inside, the smell hit us immediately. It wasn’t a bad smell — but more of a strong, zoo odour or wild animal smell. Against the wall was a shelf lined with plastic boxes, each box holding a snake. Not only the shelf had boxes — they lined the ground too. There was also a table with smaller boxes on it at the end of the room, and here I saw signs warning of very dangerous and venomous snakes inside — this is where the most venomous of snakes were kept. Ron took a box off the shelf and opened it, revealing a black snake. Once the lid was open. the snake started slowly, but surely, slithering up and out the box. Ron opened up another box in which were stored a dozen or so mice. He grabbed one using some sort of tool to lift it up and out the box. We all knew what he was going to do. Ron slowly carried the mouse over to the opened snake box and in no time the snake turned and leapt at the mouse, grabbing it, wrapping it up and slowly suffocating the mouse. As the black snake devoured the mouse, Ron told us stories about the different snakes he had in his possession.

An hour passed while Ron showed us a few different snakes he had collected; fed another mouse to the first snake, and even showed us one of the most dangerous snakes in Bali — the krait. He showed this incredibly venomous krait a bit too close to us for comfort, all while explaining how a single bite can kill a man in 45 minutes, and how there is no antivenom in Bali.

Our snake thawing out.

After this, Ron opened up a large cooler in the corner and showed us the all the frozen snakes he had in there. He gave us a rather large python because it was the only snake in the freezer that wasn’t venomous. The reason it was important our snake wasn’t poisonous was that some of the group wanted to skin the snake before burying it, might accidentally be poked by a fang while doing so, and could still get injected by the venom. This obviously would not be good, so we were sent away with a single python.

R.I.P MR. SNEK

We said our goodbyes and went on our way. Even though we may have to spend a little too much time at Ron’s house (which ended up stopping us from getting done some of the other things we had to do) I felt good, not only because I learned some cool information from the snake expert, but also because we were going back to school with a dead, frozen python, which is exactly what we came for. And it was going to be pretty awesome to skin this thing and later see if we could put together its skeleton.