A hobby not for everybody


Ling shows a python at her section in the exhibition at Pustaka Sibu.

THE slimy, slithery appearance of a snake is enough to send chills down the spine for most people, much less touching it.

For Jeannie Ling, however, she is really drawn to exotic animals including reptiles such as snakes and lizards.

The 38-year-old Sibu woman has five snakes, including ball pythons and corn snakes at home.

“The interest sparked about three years ago, but my friends had started this hobby earlier.

“Actually, keeping reptiles as a hobby is very common in other countries and even in Peninsular Malaysia, but the trend has yet to pick up much here.

“All the snakes that we have are those that have been bred in captivity, and are non-venomous.

“They’re legally sourced from Peninsular Malaysia, and come with permits from the relevant authorities,” she told thesundaypost in Sibu.

Ling was met at an exhibition held in connection with the Sarawak Children’s Festival at Pustaka Sibu recently.

There were three species of snakes on display during the exhibition: the ball python, the corn snake and the Mexican black kingsnake.

Curious visitors check out the reptiles on display at the exhibition.

There were also other pet animals being showcased including the bearded dragon, red-footed tortoise and black-tailed prairie dog.

When asked about the sources of her knowledge in handling snakes, Ling said much of the information came from her friends in Peninsular Malaysia and some other countries.

The exhibition also features a bearded dragon.

“I also watch YouTube shows and do Google searches for information, apart from buying books on reptiles and exotic pets from other countries as they are not available in Malaysia,” said the pet snake owner, who works in the administrative line.

On the number of eggs that a single ball python would lay, Ling said sometimes, it could be one, but there had been snakes that could produce more than 10.

“It would take between 50 and 60 days for the eggs to hatch.

“For me, I use a DIY incubator to hatch the eggs. The survival rate depends on the environmental temperature and humidity.

“I have observed that the most popular type among these captive-bred ball pythons is the light-coloured one,” she said, adding that she would feed her ball python with a rat once a week.

Ling with fellow hobbyists (from left) Tommy Shia, Andrea Shia and Ha How Yong posing with their reptilian pets.

Asked about the lifespan of a captive-bred ball python, Ling said it would be between 30 and 40 years.

When asked about the number of reptile keepers in Sibu, she said there were quite a few of them.

On the exhibition, she said it was the third time it was being held at the divisional library, with the key objective of providing information about reptiles to the public.

“The locals also get to see these reptiles in real life,” she added.

Nonetheless, Ling strongly advised everyone to immediately contact the relevant authorities such as the Civil Defence Force (APM) should they encounter reptiles such as snakes at home.

“I often hear about people using hot water or sticks to get rid of these reptiles. Please don’t do that.

“Call the authorities, like the APM, if you need help, as they know the proper way to handle these reptiles.

“Also, please do not catch wild animals to keep them as pets.

“If you are interested in having exotic pets, please check with Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) for guidelines and assistance,” she stressed.

Ling then said she would continue this hobby and further enrich her knowledge in caring for reptiles.

“This is my personal hobby. I would always take good care of my pets and gain knowledge from friends who share the same hobby,” she enthused.

‘Of pythons and other exotic pets’

The name ball python comes from this snake’s habit of rolling itself into a tight ball when frightened or being threatened. Ball pythons make good pets, and with socialisation from a young age, generally take well to being handled. https://reptile.guide/ball-python-facts/#Royal-Python-Habitat-Facts

Ball pythons pose no harm to their human keepers, making them great exotic pets. — AFP photo

According to the Reptile Guide, among the snakes of the world, ball pythons are one of the most exported pet snakes. In Togo, Ghana and Benin alone, over 3,000,000 ball pythons have been exported since 1982. Ball pythons are heavy-bodied snakes that can reach a weight of around five pounds (over 2kg). Nevertheless, they pose no harm to their human keepers. https://reptile.guide/ball-python-facts/#Royal-Python-Habitat-Facts

A ball python hatchling measures approximately 10 inches (25cm) in length. An adult female can grow to between three and five feet (1m and 1.5m) long, but an adult male only averages between two and three feet (0.6m and 1m). https://reptilesmagazine.com/ball-python-care-sheet/

According to The Guardian, keeping the less-traditional, or so-called ‘exotic’, pets are increasing in popularity, where the latest UK Pet Food survey has estimated that in the UK alone, people own a staggering 1.3 million indoor birds, 900,000 tortoises and turtles, 800,000 lizards and 700,000 snakes. These figures represent 3.7 million animals, and the number is increasing rapidly. The research suggests that the number of these pets may have jumped by 19 per cent in the past 12 months alone. These are fascinating animals with a huge range of unique adaptations, behaviours and personalities, so it is understandable that many people are keen to keep them as pets. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/jul/03/snakes-geckos-vet-dark-side-uk-exotic-pet-boom

Photo shows a red-footed tortoise.

According to Reader’s Digest, keeping reptiles as pets is fast gaining traction amongst the people. It has pointed out that where once people would automatically reach for fluffy puppies and cuddly kittens, there are now more who are choosing snakes, lizards and tortoises as pets. https://www.readersdigest.co.uk/inspsire/animals-pets/what-to-consider-when-keeping-reptiles