by: Nelson Hicks Updated:
How do you weigh and measure a 16-foot snake? Very carefully, that's how.
That was the task for Zoo Atlanta personnel Tuesday as it was time for Rita, the reticulated python, to get her annual check.
"It sounds like a witty response, but it's all about being a trained professional," Dr. Joe Mendelson of Zoo Atlanta told Nelson's News on wsbtv.com. "We know what we're doing, and we know what to expect from the snake."
Rita is by far the largest snake at the zoo. In the wild, reticulated pythons are the longest. Anacondas are the biggest, but some reticulated pythons grow to 30 feet in length.
When Zoo Atlanta experts completed the measurements on Rita, she checked in at 15 feet 11 inches, give or take a few.
"It turns out there is no actual measurement of a snake," Mendelson said. "They have so many individual bones in their backbones, each with a little space between them and those spaces flex a little bit, kind of like your fingers flex if you pull on it real hard. And you multiply that by hundreds and the length of a snake actually changes by a small amount as they do different things."
Mendelson noted there are a couple reasons for doing the measurements. The zoo needs to make sure the snake isn't getting obese, and veterinary medicines are given out in doses by weight. When there's an emergency, that's not the time the experts want to try to get a quick measurement.
Rita's weight was measured at 97 pounds.
While most people wouldn't want to come across a snake the size of Rita in the wild, guests can check her out in her Zoo Atlanta home for now. But Rita and all of the other snakes will be moving shortly. Zoo Atlanta is breaking ground on a new facility to house these creatures in the fall.