Pancho and Lefty have two brains, and one body, and a lot of fans missed him during his two-year absence: “Come see him any time!”
The snake — named Pancho and Lefty — have two heads, two brains, and one body. He was taken off display in February 2021 due to a neck injury, but now he is fully healed and ready to greet his fans again.
In a Facebook post, the Cameron Park Zoo wrote that a Waco family “found this unique western rat snake in their yard” before donating him to the zoo in 2016.
“This snake probably wouldn’t have survived long in the wild as he has two brains that are often giving conflicting commands to his one body, so his movements are more sporadic and uncoordinated than typical one-headed snakes,” the zoo wrote, adding that the 2021 injury was the result of his neck “trying to go in different directions and getting stuck on branches, rocks, and other obstacles.”
"Our veterinary and reptile teams worked hard to keep the wound bandaged and clean,” they said, adding how “it took until June last year for the wound to fully heal.”
The Cameron Park Zoo said they’re happy to display Pancho and Lefty again after recovering, noting that they made his exhibit safer and more comfortable with grass.
“Now that he has been eating well and the wound has been fully closed for a year, we are excited to put him back out in the freshwater aquarium building,” they continued, adding they hope the grass “provides enough cover for the snake to feel secure while also being physically safe, so he does not injure his neck again.”
“We love how invested our community is in the zoo and in this snake," they concluded the post. “Even though he has been off exhibit for over two years, we still regularly get questions about him, so we are excited that he is visible for everybody again. Please note that he is housed in the freshwater aquarium building along the Brazos River Country trail, not in the herpetarium. Come see him any time!”
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Maddie Michels-Boyce, senior zookeeper for reptiles and amphibians at the Cameron Park Zoo, told The Dallas Morning News each brain has a separate personality. “The right brain is much more dominant and tends to control where they go,” she told the outlet. “The left brain is seemingly just along for the ride.”
Reptiles are more likely than mammals to have two heads but the condition is still very rare, according to AZ Animals. Known as bicephaly, the condition is the result of “an incomplete splitting of an embryo,” per the outlet.
Michels-Boyce told The Dallas Morning News that Pancho and Lefty are around 2 to 3 feet long — smaller than an average 8-year-old rat snake — but overall remain in good health.
“We’re excited he’s doing well,” Michels-Boyce said. “We appreciate that everyone is so interested in him. We think he’s pretty great, too.”
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