Haitham El Tabei (AFP)
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia â—
Sun, September 26, 2021
Saudi Faisal Malaikah’s love for non-venomous snakes grew from one at the age of five to dozens of crossbreeds to produce “living art” in unique colors and patterns.
In the garden of his palace in Jeddah, on the Red Sea, the 35-year-old businessman has a sign on the wall in capital green letters that read “THE SNAKE ROOM”.
“There are people who collect precious stones or classic cars or paintings; as for me, I like to collect living art,” the father of three told AFP, referring to his collection. of more than 100 reticulated pythons – the longest snake in the world – – from Southeast Asia.
â€œThey are popular in the fashion industry, where their skins are used to make bags, shoes and belts, but one in 1,000 snakes hunted is a rare colored snake.
â€œHunters sell the uniquely colored snakes to collectors like me … and I crossbreed to produce rare genetic mutations with patterns and colors never seen before,â€ he said, pointing at a snake. white gold and gray wrapped around his left arm.
Malaikah said he had no interest in selling to fashion brands, criticized by an animal rights group for their unethical use of animal skins.
â€œI enjoy life, so I love (snakes) alive and not like bags or shoes,â€ the breeder said.
In the well-air-conditioned room, the creatures slip into large glass boxes, with holes just big enough for them to stick out their tongues.
Sawdust lines the floor of the boxes, absorbing the odors of snake droppings.
Crossing pythons takes time and patience, said Malaikah.
It takes “three or four generations … and about 10 to 12 years” to produce a tricolor snake, he added.
In the wild, pythons are constrictors, meaning they wrap their body around their prey and squeeze it until it dies, swallowing it whole. They are not poisonous.
At the palace, Malaikah feeds them chicken or rabbit once a week.
“Some are worth $ 100,000”
Alongside Malaikah, his friend Ibrahim al-Sharif, 32.
Sharif said that Malaikah, CEO of a financial firm, spared no expense, bringing in specialists from the United States to learn more about crosses and mutations.
â€œMalaikah has put a lot of time, effort and money into this hobby,â€ he said.
In one of the enclosures is a six-meter (20-foot) long white python with golden markings. The eight-year-old snake weighs 100 kilograms (220 pounds) and moves with great effort.
â€œThe snakes I have are unlike any other in the world or are very rare, some are worth $ 100,000,â€ said Malaikah.
But he said most of his snakes were worth between $ 200 and $ 20,000 each.
For Malaikah, living among the most feared creatures is a dream come true.
â€œSince I was a child, I used to go to libraries looking for books on snakes and reptiles,â€ he said.
“You can say that I have always lived in a biology class atmosphere,” he added, laughing.
While collecting snakes may have been an unusual pastime for a child, Malaikah said her family never had a problem with it.
“They are mysterious creatures, and it is natural that people are afraid of them … but I love them, especially since they are my creations.”