The Burmese python (Python bivittatus), with its beautifully patterned skin, very rapid growth rate, and a generally docile disposition, are best known as the large pet snake of choice among reptile owners.
Unfortunately, these potentially huge constrictors are very often poorly cared for, and as they grow are frequently released into the wild. Their attacks on handlers, sometimes with deadly consequences, are not uncommon, they are powerful constrictors, and their bite and sharp teeth can cause severe lacerations.
These large non-venomous snakes are native to the woodlands, grasslands, swamps, marshes, rocky foothills, river valleys and jungles of Southeast Asia, usually living near water. Burmese Pythons are one of the largest snakes on Earth, together with the green Anaconda and the reticulated python.
The species territory extends from Southern and Southeast Asia and includes Eastern India, Srilanka, Nepal, Western Bhutan, Southeast Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Northern continental Malaysia, Southern China and in Indonesia on Java, Southern Sulawesi, Bali, and Sumbawa.
These snakes are capable of reaching a length of 23 feet (7 meters) or more and weighing up to 200 pounds (90 kilograms) and with a girth as large as a telephone pole. They measure on average 3,5 or 4 meters (12 ft), the males have a narrower girth, weigh less and are shorter in length than the females.
Typically the Burmese python has a tan coloration covered with dark brown blotches with a black edge along the back and sides. These blotches look a little bit like puzzle pieces and the pattern resembles the markings on a giraffe.
Their attractive skin pattern is the main reason for their popularity among reptile enthusiasts and also the leather industry. Its general appearance is somewhat similar to that of the African rock python (Python sebae) leading to some confusion of the 2 species, at least in captivity since they inhabit different regions of the world.
The young snakes will spend much of their time in the trees. However, as they mature their sheer size and weight makes tree climbing difficult or even impossible, they then transition to a mainly ground-dwelling life.
They are also known to be excellent swimmers and can stay submerged for up to 30 minutes at a time, before surfacing for air. Their average lifespan in the wild is about 20 to 25 years.
Burmese pythons are solitary animals and are generally only seen together during spring in the mating season. The female snake will lay clutches of up to 100 eggs, which they will incubate for a period of two to three months. To help keep their eggs warm and at an optimal temperature, they continually contract or shiver their muscles.
Since 1995, over 1,200 Burmese Pythons have been removed from the Florida Everglades, many of these snakes were pets, that ended up being released in the wild by owners. And their population is rapidly expanding.
Until 2009 the Burmese Python that lives in Southeast Asia was considered a subspecies of the Indian Python (Python molurus molurus) that inhabits India and Sri Lanka. Today it is regarded a full species.
Diet / Feeding
The Burmese Python is a carnivore, surviving primarily by preying and eating small mammals and birds. Adult Burmese pythons can catch and consume prey as big as a pig or small deer. Younger and smaller specimens will eat smaller mammals like rats, birds, frogs, lizards, other snakes, and even fish.
They have very poor eyesight so they stalk prey using special chemical receptors in their forked tongues and heat-sensors located along the jaws. These pits are very similar to those found on the venomous pit vipers.
These invasive snake species now found in Florida are devastating to the local ecosystem, as they prey on native wildlife, eating primarily birds, mammals, and occasionally American alligators the everglades apex predator.
The Burmese pythons is normally a nocturnal ambush hunter, most often ambushing its prey using a "sit and wait for" technique. Sometimes it will lie submerged in a stream or slow-moving river with only its head above the water waiting for an unsuspecting prey to come close enough to be grabbed.
They kill their prey by the means of constriction, grasping the unfortunate victim with their sharp teeth, and then coiling their powerful bodies around the animal, and squeezing until the prey suffocates and dies.
They like most snakes have stretchy ligaments in their jaws that allow them to swallow all their food whole by stretching their mouths. They feed only a few times a year and require not much more than their own body weight of food in a year.
The Burmese Python is an oviparous snake species. Their mating season extends from November to February, the eggs are laid in March or April. During the 60 to 80 days incubation period, the female will not feed and wraps itself around the eggs and through contractions and muscle strain, it maintains the temperature of the eggs, in spite of being an ectothermic animal.
Each egg-clutch is composed on average of 12 to 36 eggs, but it can be as many as 100 eggs. The Burmese python hatchlings measure anywhere from 18 to 29 inches long and weigh around 4 ounces. These snakes reach their sexual maturity at about two or three years old.
Conservation / Threats
The Burmese pythons are threatened mainly by humans, their habitat depletion, the continued demand for these pythons in the exotic pet trade, and hunting for their skins and flesh have landed these beautiful giant snakes on the endangered species list.
The number of snakes in captivity is very high, it is the most represented species within its genus (genus Python), under these conditions. The species is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN and listed on Appendix II of CITES.
Did You Know?
Found in South America the green anaconda is, considered the largest snake in the world.