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People & Places

Staff Pick

Best Zoo Animal 

Python 361003

She’s 62 years old, has a number instead of a name, and she hasn’t been anywhere near a male snake in fifteen years — but that didn’t stop a female ball python from shocking her handlers at the Saint Louis Zoo in July, as they weren’t expecting to see her coiled around seven eggs. The zoo announced the event, noting that she’s “the oldest snake documented in a Zoo,” but it’s nature that gave ball pythons more than one way to, well, find a way: Ball pythons can reproduce sexually or, given lack of other options, asexually. They can also store sperm for later as a kind of reproductive insurance policy. But 361003 is far past the age experts expected to see her laying eggs. She’s lived at the zoo since 1961. She’s seen it all. And even in this crazy world, when nobody knows what the future brings, and lacking a convenient source of python sperm, she made her own way forward. We wish her and her brood only the best. — Danny Wicentowski

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