It’s a most unlikely friendship. A snake and a hamster, who we usually assume are predator and prey, have become close pals…and they live together at the Mutsugoro Okoku zoo in Tokyo, Japan.
It all began in October, 2005, when Gohan the hamster was presented as a meal to Aochan, a Japanese rat snake. The rat snake, who is two years old, had begun to refuse his previous food of frozen rodents. The keepers had put the hamster in his cage, hoping that the live prey would stimulate him to eat.
Much to their surprise, Aochan not only didn’t eat the hamster, but accepted him as a cage mate!
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said one zookeeper. Some people have expressed alarm that the snake might eventually eat his furry friend, but according to zoo personnel, this doesn’t seem to be a concern.
Zookeeper Kazuya Yamamoto is confident that the buddy relationship will continue. “I don’t think there’s any danger. Aochan seems to enjoy Gohan’s company very much,” he said.
Although it’s hard to know what’s going inside the heads of this odd pair, they do seem to show a sense of affection for another. The tiny Gohan will often sleep on Aochan’s back, and Aochan will sometimes curl his four-and-a-half foot length in a coil around Gohan while he naps.
They’re still happily sharing a cage at the zoo, and as far as the zoo personnel are concerned, they’ll continue to do so. But there is one adjustment that could be made.
After the hamster survived the first few days with Aochan, he was given the name Gohan, which means “meal” in Japanese. Perhaps a name change is in order.
Sources: Associated Press, BBC News