This six year old Cambodian can ride on his favorite pet. It's a 20-foot python. The snake showed up at the boy's house three months before he was born and his family has kept him for good luck. In fact the boy says he loves the python like a sister. HISSS CHOMP

If you haven't seen this 16 second video clip yet, you can search YouTube for "pet python". You'll turn up about a dozen repeats of the same video. In short, it starts out showing a young boy riding on the back of an enormous constrictor while a female voice-over narrates what appears to be a fluff human interest piece. A logo of some sort has been blurred out in the lower right corner.

Suddenly the snake turns on the boy and with a loud and sudden hiss engulfs his head in its mouth. The video abruptly ends.

Depending on whether or not you believe what you see, this is either uproariously funny or horrifically tragic. I guess that also depends on how sociopathic you are. The video has become widely popular because it is very effective at emotionally affecting the viewer: the innocent, trusting, and adorable little boy contrasted against the emotionless reptilian killer, combined with the suddenness and unexpectedness of the strike in what initially looks like a heartwarming filler piece for a slow news day touches some of our most primitive emotions. A little critical thinking goes a long way here, however, and it quickly becomes apparent that the video has been faked.

First, and most tellingly, if you watch the video twice in a row it becomes obvious that the clip at the end, in which the snake attacks, is just re-used footage from the beginning of the video with the striking snake inserted. The boy does not react in the slightest, and neither does anyone in the background.

Second, the strike is inconsistent with a real constrictor's behavior. The snake would much more likely strike at a limb than the head, and then only to get a good grip with its jaws. In seconds, its next move would be to coil its powerful, muscular body around the victim to squeeze its breath out, causing suffocation and death. Once the snake believes its victim dead, it unwraps its body and swallows its prey whole, headfirst. The snake in the video is apparently foregoing the constriction process and skipping directly to swallowing the boy live and whole. Furthermore, a constrictor strikes silently, it does not hiss as it attacks.

Finally, why in the world would the good natured voice-over have been added to this human interest piece if it was never intended to be aired due to the sudden tragedy? The voice-over was obviously added in after the editing since the camera changes angles several times while the narration continues uninterrupted. The video expects us to either believe the voice-over was done during the filming, or else done by an oblivious narrator who had never seen the footage.

Although the video was faked, it's not too far removed from an all too believable event. Large snakes are in fact very dangerous, especially to small children. Snakes cannot be domesticated, and being cold-blooded hunters with primitive brains, they are incapable of forming a bond of friendship with a "master" the way a dog or a cat could. Should this python ever find itself hungry enough, it could quite easily overpower a six year old boy and even a small group of full-grown adults would have a difficult time pulling it off of him.

The boy may love his pet snake, but the snake is not emotionally capable of loving him back. Trusting a 20-foot python with a small child is foolish and irresponsible. It is likely only a matter of time before this tragedy, or something very like it, happens in reality.

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