Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Only in Cebu Zoo (Philippines) : Snake massage - via Herp Digest

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013, Cebu Daily News

Care for a snake massage?

Four Burmese pythons at the Cebu City Zoo are ready to give you one for free.

Touted as the only reptile service of its kind in the country, the exotic massage which started last month is drawing more visitors to the government zoo.

The zoo’s entrance fee is P25 for adults and P20 for children.

But there’s no charge for guests who lie down on a bamboo bed and experience the weight of full grown pythons slithering on their bodies.

“Mura ka ug gi tamakan ug bata,” said lawyer Jose Marie Poblete, Cebu City administrator. (It’s like having the weight of a child stepping on you.)

He tried the novel massage last December 10 during the blessing and inauguration of the zoo’s P4-million new viewing deck and comfort rooms.

TEN MINUTES ONLY

Pythons named Michelle (87 kilos), Walter (76 kilos), EJ (39 kilos) and Daniel (24 kilos) are taken out of their cages and placed one at a time atop visitors, who lie down on a bamboo bed near the zoo’s main entrance.

The snakes slowly move across human limbs for 10 to 15-minutes under the watchful eyes of zoo keepers.

“We have to set a time limit to accommodate all visitors who want to try it,” said the zoo manager Giovanni Romarate.

Not all visitors are that adventurous.

Eleven-year-old Richelle Joy Quiqui peeked anxiously from behind adult spectators who watched Poblete covered with snakes.

She couldn’t stand the sight, and walked away to rejoin her family’s picnic in a nearby shed.

The Cebu City Zoo is the only place in the Philippines offering snake massage.

In Indonesia, the Bali Heritage Reflexology and Spa offers snake massage using two six-foot long pythons. A 90-minute treatment would cost 480, 000 rupiah or $43.



The Burmese pythons in the Cebu City measure three to five meters long.

“You do not feel any grip. It’s more of pressure on your body because of the heavy weight of the snakes,” said Poblete.

The lawyer admitted he found it difficult to enjoy the experience because of his fear that the pythons would bite.

SAFE

Romarate assured that the snake massage is safe.

“Snakes do not attack as long as they are not harmed. We also made sure that we use pythons because they are not venomous,” said Romarate, who owns Michelle and Walter.

The two Burmese pythons were donated by a friend a few years ago and lived with Romarate and his family in their home in the mountain barangay of Tabunan. He brought the two snakes to the zoo in 2007 when he was employed as zoo manager.

Romarate said he thought of using their Burmese pythons as an attraction when the zoo’s lone Bengal tiger “Boggart” died six months ago.

Boggart was the crowd drawer in the zoo, which earns about P100,000 a month in entrance fees.

Most visitors are students from Cebu province and neighboring provinces on educational trips. The city zoo also has birds, monkeys, crocodiles, turtles, and a deer.

The idea of an exotic massage came about when the pythons were shown to guests from Tajikistan. Four pythons were placed on a bamboo bed for the guests to get a closer look.

One guest who saw the snakes crawl over the body of a zoo keeper called it a “snake massage”. Since then, the experience has been tried by various visitors daring enough to try something new, including Japanese, American and Canadian guests.

“At first, they feel fear but most of the guests who try the snake massage say that they like it. It’s like getting a hand massage. You get to enjoy the cold grip of our snakes,” said Romarate.

Some foreign guests donated meat to help feed the zoo snakes. Michelle, for example, consumes 25 chickens during her once-a- month feeding.

Romarate said he’s consulting a Cebuano physical therapist to help him enhance the service.

“I have not come across any actual study that shows therapeutic benefits of getting a snake massage,” he said “but we are working to improve the experience” and welcomes any help from other experts. /Doris C. Bongcac, Chief Of Reporters

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