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New England Aquarium’s anacondas receive annual physicals

Dr. Charles Innis (left) examined Kathleen, an 82-lb., 14-foot-6-inch anaconda, on Thursday at the New England Aquarium.
Dr. Charles Innis (left) examined Kathleen, an 82-lb., 14-foot-6-inch anaconda, on Thursday at the New England Aquarium.(David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)

Say “ahhhh” and stick out your forked tongue?

Four unusual patients got their annual physicals Thursday morning — the anacondas of the New England Aquarium’s Amazon exhibit.

Kathleen, Marion, Wilson, and Anna, all female anacondas named after long-term volunteers at the aquarium, were removed from their exhibit one by one for routine checkups complete with oral exams, body exams, blood tests, ultrasounds, and X-rays.

Wondering what it’s like to be a snake at the doctor’s office?

Your visit would be remarkably similar to a human’s, minus the wait and paperwork, of course, an aquarium spokesman said. And you’d be sedated.

Anacondas are the largest snakes in the world, measuring up to 30 feet and tipping the scale at several hundred pounds, according to Tony LaCasse, aquarium spokesman.

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But the anacondas in the New England Aquarium’s exhibit are staying trim, with the heaviest weighing less than 100 pounds.

Once the anacondas are removed from the exhibit, aquarium staff wheel them up to the top floor of the facility where the veterinary center is housed, LaCasse said. Then, six or seven staff members hold the animal down while it’s sedated and examined by a veterinarian.

LaCasse said the physicals have always gone routinely, although it can be tricky to examine a 14-foot-long snake, which is how long Kathleen was last year.

For instance, even though the anacondas are sedated, vets still have to use extreme caution when checking their oral cavities.

“That can be a little challenging with a snake,” LaCasse said.

When it’s time for the anaconda to be X-rayed, aquarium staff move it out of the small examination room to a larger space and stretch it out along the floor. “The challenge with that is that standard X-rays are about 18 inches in length,” LaCasse said.

That means it takes about 10 X-rays to fully capture the length of snakes as long as Kathleen.

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LaCasse said animals in aquariums tend to live longer than if they were in the wild, partly due to the exceptional health care they receive.

“The health care these anacondas get is probably better than most Americans’,” he said.

Wilson got a lookover by Dr. Mike Corcoran.
Wilson got a lookover by Dr. Mike Corcoran.(David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)
A snake was placed in a bucket to be weighed.
A snake was placed in a bucket to be weighed.(David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)
Kathleen was laid out on the floor for measurement and examination.
Kathleen was laid out on the floor for measurement and examination.(David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)

Alyssa Meyers can be reached at alyssa.meyers@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ameyers_.