The Cinch Review

And the snake shall lie down with the hamster …

A snake has (allegedly) befriended a hamster that was put in its enclosure for it to eat, according to reports from a Tokyo zoo. [Update: I just noticed that this story is from 2006; somehow I came across it today and took it to be new. No matter!]

Their relationship began in October last year, when zookeepers presented the hamster to the snake as a meal.

The rat snake, however, refused to eat the rodent. The two now share a cage, and the hamster sometimes falls asleep sitting on top of his natural foe.

[…]

The hamster was initially offered to Aochan, the two-year-old rat snake, because it was refusing to eat frozen mice.

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The apparent friendship between the snake and hamster is one of many reported bonds spanning the divide between predator and prey.

Really? “Many reported bonds spanning the divide between predator and prey”? I hadn’t previously heard of all that many. If there truly are lions and lambs lying down all over the place, maybe it’s time to check the book of Isaiah and find out what comes next on the calendar.

And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them.
Also the cow and the bear will graze,
Their young will lie down together,
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
As the waters cover the sea.

It is clear that humankind’s favorite domesticated predator, the dog, can learn to practice restraint from its predatory instincts and instead be friendly and even protective towards other animals. I can even believe that there is the occasional domestic cat that can restrain its murderous impulses. (Very occasional.) But truly wild animals suppressing their urge to consume their traditional prey?

Perhaps this story is instead more of a commentary on the abysmal loneliness and boredom of serpents trapped in enclosures in zoos; that one would prefer to play with his food for a while in lieu of eating it, just to better pass the time. Or, perhaps after eating so many frozen mice (what a revolting concept), this snake has just lost its taste for rodent meat generally. (Perhaps they should offer it something else — say, a small child — and see what happens.)


And of-course, I’m sure the zoo staff would never attempt to influence or engineer such an outcome, in the hope that this newsworthy friendship of predator and prey might attract more visitors to their zoo.

Ah, enough cynicism! If the snake and the hamster can truly be pals, then, on some level, perhaps we are being reassured that the end of our worldly strife is not a thing of myth and of false hope, but a true ultimate fate that is hardwired into creation itself, if largely hidden in our present time.

That, at least, is the lesson I shall choose to take.

Addendum: OK. There appear to be other examples. This one, of a lioness in a Kenyan reserve which was seen to adopt three baby antelopes ( a type known as oryxes) — on separate occasions — is from back in 2002:

One was seen in [the lioness’s] company in December last year, but it was eaten by other lions after two weeks. Another calf was taken away from her in February and placed in a zoo because it showed signs of malnourishment.

[…]

The lioness is said to be “fiercely protective” of the [latest] oryx – becoming very aggressive when any human come near.

[…]

When the last calf was eaten by a male lion while she slept, the lioness was said to have been stricken with grief – she went around roaring in anger.

[…]

Local newspapers have noted that all three adoptions occurred on significant days – Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Good Friday.

Indeed.