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Friday, 22 November, 2002, 18:51 GMT
Monster snake Samantha dies
Bronx Zoo members hold Samantha
Samantha thrived in captivity
The world's largest known snake in captivity, Samantha the reticulated python, has died.

Officials at Bronx Zoo, in New York, said they believed she had died of old age.

Samantha was already 6.4 metres (21 feet) long and weighed 80 kilograms (175 pounds) when she was brought to the zoo from the South-east Asian island of Borneo in 1993.

Pig
Lunch
By the time she died she had grown to 8m (26 feet) long - outstripping two average cars - and weighed in at 125kg (275 pounds). The Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the Bronx Zoo, estimates she was over 30 years old.

Her giant status attracted giant crowds: she was visited by a million people a year and appeared in several nature documentaries.

Mellow

But, according to the zoo's World of Reptiles supervisor Bill Holmstrom, she also had an attractive personality.

"Samantha was a rather mellow and easy-going creature as giants snakes go and was a favourite of her keepers and Zoo guests alike," he said in a statement.

Snakeskin boots
Samantha was nearly reduced to a pair of shoes
Of special appeal to visitors was Samantha's monthly feeding time, when she swallowed an 11-16kg pig, killed and fed warm, in about 15 minutes. It took about a week to fully digest.

Samantha was almost turned into a handbag or pair of shoes but had a lucky escape after Paul Raddatz, of the Raddatz Leather Company, found out about her and told the zoo.

She had been captured by poachers at the mouth of a cave near a remote village in Borneo, where she had been investigating the local availability of chickens and pigs.

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