When I learnt that previous owners of our Daintree rainforest property had lost a baby to an Amethystine Python, I was indelibly impressed.
From the night of arrival of each of my three children and for the first two weeks of each of their lives, a six-metre python menaced at the periphery of our dwelling.
In the Daintree, visitor expectations prioritise the observation of unique wildlife in natural habitat. The Amethystine Python has a more profound impact on nightwalkers than almost any other species. Sustainable management of freehold World Heritage estate relies on visitor-willingness to distinguish themselves from the popularity of subsidised public-access facilities.
My paternalistic concern for my newborn children was judiciously moderated by my presentation enthusiasms of such predictable and awe-inspiring sightings. At the same time, our newborn children were never left alone for a moment.
A couple of months ago, a neighbouring twelve-year-old was attacked in his bed by a four-metre python. His screams awoke his household and the snake was hurled out into the night. Undeterred, it attacked the boy again the following night and was summarily executed.
It appears that departing members of the local community had given their cat to the boy, which he shared his bed with. In all probability, the python was attracted to the cat and the boy rolled onto the snake, two nights in succession.
I don’t imagine that there would be many who would begrudge the father for killing the python to protect his son, but it is almost inevitable that some would argue that the family had put themselves at risk by residing in python habitat.
I have spent that last thirteen years, on an almost nightly basis, scouring the nocturnal landscape of the Daintree rainforest for pythons, amongst a multitude of other species. They are unpredictable and over the course of the year I might see one per fortnight.
Quite recently, a three-and-a-half metre female has been behaving in an unexpected and innovative manner. It discretely positions itself amongst the branches of an exotic custard-apple called soursop. Patiently it awaits to ambush the spectacled flying-fox, which finds the fruit irresistible. If the strike is unsuccessful and the fruit falls to the ground, the python repositions in readiness to ambush one of two species of bandicoot, which are similarly attracted to the fruit.
During an animated discussion about the perceived improbability of a python-sighting, a night-walk client promised to send me a copy of a book he’d recently read that would reinforce, in his opinion, my stated belief that pheromones were largely at play. Jacobson’s Organ is one of the most enjoyable and thought-provoking books I’ve read over the past few years.