Reality is sometimes much worse than fiction. Whereas at the end of the novel The Adventures of Pinocchio, the little wooden puppet survived being swallowed by a whale, the fate of a 50-year-old woman in Indonesia was far more gruesome. Wa Tiba, from Persiapan Lawela, a village on the island of Mun, south-east of Sulawesi, died after literally being swallowed by a giant python.
Her remains were discovered in June 2018, the day after her disappearance. Concerned when she did not return from her vegetable garden at nightfall, her relatives and neighbours soon decided to go looking for her. The only traces they could find were the machete and sandals of the 54-year-old missing person.
A suspicious animal
About 100 feet away, the inhabitants of the small Indonesian village finally encountered a creature that was impressive, to say the least: a giant python measuring nearly 23 feet. An intriguing detail was that the animal was so swollen that it seemed to have swallowed a prey larger than it should have. An intuition that led to the discovery of Wa Tiba's lifeless body. The local police chief stated:
The local residents suspected that the snake had swallowed the victim, so they killed it and then carried it out of the garden. The belly of the snake was then opened and the victim's body found inside.
A gruesome detail provided by the officer: the victim was swallowed head first by the python. However, her body did not suffer any damage despite being ingested by the animal.
A rare incident
This type of dramatic event remains relatively rare, despite the presence of many giant pythons in Indonesia. Indeed, the 50-year-old seems to have been first and foremost a victim of the particular situation of her vegetable garden, nestled at the foot of a rocky cliff studded with caverns known to be potential shelters for pythons.
These constrictor snakes most often feed only on small prey, the large ones requiring much more effort for the reptiles. Attacks on humans are therefore very infrequent, although precedents have already made headlines, including the case of a young Indonesian farmer who was also killed by a python in March last year.
A few years earlier, in 2013, a security guard on the tourist island of Bali was also attacked by a python, this time at a beachfront hotel. As paradisiacal as they are, Indonesian islands are nevertheless areas where wildlife can sometimes remind humans that they too are a vulnerable species.