PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Seven zookeepers worked in tandem to walk a 17-foot-long, 240-pound Burmese Python, Louise, to her new home down the hall at the Peoria Zoo in Glen Oak Park.
The zookeeper holding her head during this daunting task, Douglas Holmes, said Louise behaved very well.
“It’s kind of like picking up a 50-pound bag of dog food and trying to move it,” he said, “it’s not really easy to move… I just controlled her head, and she was just inquisitive, she just wanted to know what was going on.”
Holmes described holding the snake, something he is not a stranger to, as cold to the touch with a vinyl-like feel.
Louise now has more room to stretch out, swim, climb, and hang out. It is quite rare for a zoo guest to see a big snake in action, but Tuesday morning, Louise was on the move, making herself at home in her new home.
“A lot of big snakes, they like to curl up in a corner and just kind of sit tight,” Holmes said. “I’m wondering if she won’t do the same, but at least she has the opportunity to move if she wants to. That’s what it’s all about. They have feelings and whatnot, and they like to explore, so this was good for her.”
The new habitat lets children get up and close to the pool area of the enclosure. The zoo gives families the opportunity to learn about the Southeast Asian reptile.
“They’re threatened out in the wild,” Holmes said. “A lot of these animals are being hunted for their skins. Millions of python skins are coming into the Unites States every year to be made into shoes and wallets and things like that.”
Holmes described how important the Burmese Python is to its natural ecosystem.
“They’re extremely beneficial to the environment,” he said. “They eat things, they eat small mammals and other animals.”
Louise is just over 20 years old and eats a six to eight pound meal every few weeks. She only eats about 10 times a year, according to Holmes. He said she will not eat when she is ready to shed her skin, or when the weather is cold.