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Last Updated: Thursday January 19 2006 16:55 GMT

Snake makes friends with its food

Gohan, right, and snake Aochan live together in a cardboard box
A rat snake and a dwarf hamster have struck up a strange friendship, living side by side at a zoo near Tokyo.

Aochan the snake was offered the rodent to munch on after it turned its nose up at its usual diet of frozen mice.

But instead of killing the hamster the snake made friends with it and the two have lived happily together in the same cage since October last year.

The hamster has been named Gohan, which means 'meal' in Japanese. Aochan has gone back to eating frozen mice.

Gohan appears to be so happy in the presence of his new buddy that keepers say he is regularly seen to fall asleep on top of the reptile.

"I don't think there's any danger. Aochan seems to enjoy Gohan's company very much," zookeeper Kazuya Yamamoto told the Associated Press news agency.

Unusual partnerships

It's not the first time predators have befriended animals they might usually view as a potential meal.

In 2002, a lioness at Samburu National Park adopted a number of baby antelopes.

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