An elderly couple in Haikou, China’s Hainan Province, have been sharing their home with a 60 kilogram, 3.7-meter-long python for seven years, raising it as their child and even taking it for walks around their neighborhood.
68-year-old Shi Jimin, a retired meat processing worker, adopted the python in 2009, to save it from certain death. A fish and snake vendor had come by his workplace, and managed to sell his entire supply, except for a small 30-cm long snake that no one had wanted. The man had said that if no one was interested, he was just going to get rid of it, which is when stepped in and asked the vendor how much he wanted for the reptile. Shi says that he eventually got it for free, as the man was just going to kill it or throw it away somewhere anyway. So he took the young snake home to his wife, not knowing that it would grow up into a cattle-eating behemoth.
But even after realizing that they had adopted a python, the elderly couple had no problem sharing their home with their pet, which they consider more as a child. In the last seven years it has grown to an impressive 3.7 meters and weighs around 120 pounds. But experts say it’s still young and bound to get even bigger. Still Shi and his wife are not concerned for their safety, and allow the snake to freely slither around their home during the day. It often sits on their laps as they watch TV together, or just finds a comfortable spot and sits there like a good boy. In they evening, the couple give the snake a warm bath, and before going to bed, they take the python to his very own bedroom.
Apart from barring the windows to make sure their son, which they named Shi Nanwang, doesn’t run off somewhere, Shi and his wife say they’ve taken no precautions to protect themselves from the snake, and swear that it has never once bitten them. They did have a steel cage made for Nanwang, but only to serve as a private enclosure during his six months hibernation period. When he enters his long slumber at the beginning of winter, Shi fills the cage with blankets and places the snake inside so they don’t disturb him by mistake.
When asked if taking care of such a large snake is expensive, Shi Jiming said that he spends half his monthly pension on it. Nanwang currently eats about 8 live medium-sized chickens, or 5 large ones, every 20 to 30 days.
The Chinese couple often take their snake son on outdoor walks around their neighborhood, and say that even though their neighbors were originally terrified of Nanwang, they soon realized it is very docile and friendly. Many of the kids stop to pet it or have their pictures taken with it. “The python is very tame and listens to Shi Jimin,” one of Shi’s neighbors told China News Service. “Everyone has watched it grow — just like watching a child grow up.”
The elderly couple have two daughters, but they moved out of the house a long time ago and have their own families now, so they won’t be able to take care of Shi Nanwang if something happens to them. Shi Jimin told reporters that he plans to give the snake to a zoo when he becomes too old to take care of it, at which point the python allegedly stopped moving and stayed in his lap quietly. “Don’t worry, that would be some ten years away,” Shi said.