» The real snake-boy

The real snake-boy

A couple of months ago my friend Alessandro found a clip on YouTube that tells the story of a boy called Sambath, at the time 9 years old, that had a very large Burmese Python as his best friend. Apparently the boy’s family found the young snake around the time when Sambath was born and they took the snake in as a pet.  Sambath and the snake grew up together and over the years became almost inseparable. The clip also stated that this family lives in a village not too far from Phnom Penh so we simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to go and see if the snake and boy were still alive and living together. We had our doubts that the snake was still alive, because the clip on YouTube dates back to 2009 and there weren’t any other updates about snake-boy to be found on the internet since.

We set out to look for snake-boy by tuk-tuk and our driver told us the village is around 20km from Phnom Penh. Not long into the journey the heavens really opened up and heavy rain came pouring down and I wondered if this was a bad omen for our adventure, but we kept going. As we got closer to the area our excitement grew, especially when our driver started asking local villagers for directions and it was very clear that everyone knew whom he was referring to.

So, we finally arrived at the home of Sambath: a lovely looking traditional Cambodian house. We ran for cover under the house, because the rain was still pelting down. Straight away we recognised Sambath, although a little bit older now. His father, grandfather and sister were also sitting there and they welcomed us with warm smiles, albeit a little bit surprised by the two foreigners that came running into their yard from under the rain!

We couldn’t keep our excitement in any longer and asked about the snake..

Sambath, with a tinge of longing in his eyes, told us that the snake unfortunately no longer lived with them. 2 Years earlier they decided to take the snake to the wildlife sanctuary outside Phnom Penh, because the snake became too expensive to look after: at that point the 160kg creature was devouring more than 10 chickens per week and for a family that can hardly afford one or two chickens per week to feed themselves, they simply had no other choice.

It was clear that Sambath missed his ‘friend’, but he says that he still goes and visits the snake in the sanctuary from time to time.

The grandfather proudly showed us some of the photos that were taken back in 2008 when Sambath was only 8 years old and we can see that the snake was already huge at the time. They were really beautiful photos and it is clearly evident that Sambath and the snake shared a special bond.

We stayed at the family’s home a little while longer, chatting with everyone, and then took a couple of portrait photos of Sambath and his family. Of course we were a bit disappointed that Sambath’s close friend wasn’t around anymore, but all in all it was still a pleasant experience and a nice outing for the afternoon. I am sure there are some relieved families, dogs, cats and chickens around the neighbourhood now that the snake has found a new home!

The clip on YouTube:


Our meeting with snake-boy:

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