The Olive python (Liasis olivaceus) is a python species found only in Australia with 2 subspecies currently recognized.
They are found in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland. The species is found in savannah woodlands and mountain ranges. The ground-dwelling olive python typically inhabits rocky areas, escarpments and gorges, and prefer areas near sources of water.
They are mainly nocturnal animals and will often take shelter in caves or rock crevices during the day, but at time they have been found in hollow logs or burrows under rocks. Some individuals may use man-made water sources, like recreational lakes or sewerage treatment ponds.
These are big snakes with adult specimens reaching more than 13 feet (4 meters) in length, but the average size is around 8 feet (2.5 m), with females being only slightly longer than male snakes. They are 2nd largest snake species found in Australia, only surpassed by the scrub python (Morelia amethistina).
Unlike other pythons their skin looks much smoother because the high midbody dorsal scale count from 61 to 72, while the ventral scales count is around 355 to 377.
Unfortunately, these harmless non-venomous snakes are on occasion misidentified and confused with the highly venomous king brown (Pseudechis australis) and often killed out of fear.
Like their common name indicates the colour pattern is usually a uniform olive green but also greenish-brown, reddish-brown or chocolate brown, and the belly is usually white to creamish colored.
There are 2 subspecies of olive pythons currently recognized.
Olive python (Liasis olivaceus olivaceus - Gray, 1842) - Found in Australia ranging from area around Mount Isa in Queensland to the Kimberley region in Western Australia.
Pilbara olive python (Liasis olivaceus barroni - Smith, 1981) - Found only in Australia's Pilbara region in Western Australia.
Diet / Feeding
The Olive python diet consists mainly of mammals, birds, bats, frogs but also other reptiles. Their prey includes fruit bats, rock-wallabies, ducks, corellas, coucals and spinifex pigeons. These powerful snakes are also known to attack and kill monitor lizards and crocodiles like the Freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus johnstoni).
They are ambush predators, and will lie quietly in the vicinity of animal trails, waiting for prey to come by. But being great swimmers they will also hunt in waterholes or watercourses, attacking unsuspecting prey from under the water.
Once the prey is caught, they kill it by constriction, coiling their body around it and suffocating the animal.
The mating season occurs between May until mid-July. Males travel long distances of up to 4 km in search of females, who may also emit pheromones to attract them. Then both male and female often find shelter, in places like caves, and will remain together for a period of up to 3 weeks, mating.
This is followed by a gestation period of around 81 to 85 days. These are oviparous snakes, and females will lay from 12 to 40 eggs in late spring, with the average clutch being about 19 eggs.
After the incubation period of about 50 days, the hatchlings will emerge and measure about 13.5 inches (35 cm) in length. The young disperse immediately after birth in search of food.
Conservation / Threats
The olive python like many other snakes is considered a vulnerable species. The main threats to the species include loss of habitat due to the development of mining infrastructures and major fire events.
They are also threatened by feral cats and foxes, that kill juvenile snakes and compete for food sources and loss of habitat. The olive python is also often killed by humans in roads or when mistaken for other venomous snakes.
Did You Know?
Ancient Egyptians worshiped the Egyptian cobra, it was known simply as the Asp