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Burmese Python (Python molurus bivittatus)

The Burmese python is an immense semi-aquatic snake that is non-venomous and fang-free. Native to the jungles and grassy marshes of Southeast Asia, Burmese pythons are among the largest snakes on Earth. With their beautifully patterned skin, rapid growth rate, and generally docile disposition, may be best known as the large snake of choice among reptile owners. Unfortunately these potentially huge constrictors are often poorly cared for and are frequently released into the wild. Burmese Pythons have established thriving and breeding populations in southern Florida, where the climate meets the conditions necessary for survival.

The average python is known to have shades of light brown skin with red and black markings although many different snake breeders have created Burmese pythons that are different from the normal markings and in some cases, ones that are albino. The perceived attractiveness of their skin pattern contributes to their popularity with both reptile keepers and the leather industry. The Burmese python is one of the most feared of all snakes, primarily due to the size. It is among one of the largest breeds of snakes anywhere. In terms of physical size, the Burmese python is truly a sight to behold. They are capable of reaching 23 feet or more in length and weighing up to 200 pounds with a girth as big as a telephone pole. When young, they will spend much of their time in the trees. However, as they mature and their size and weight make tree climbing unwieldy, they transition to mainly ground-dwelling.

Burmese pythons are not poisonous snakes, however they are constrictors, coiling around their prey and squeezing the life out of it. When these snakes are small, they usually feed on mice and small rats. However, as they grown their appetites increase and they have to be fed more often. Although it can take some time to digest any large prey, these snakes are opportunistic and will attack their prey, even if they are not particularly hungry. Burmese pythons go after larger prey such as alligators and deer when they get in their way in the glades. Because they are able to sink their fangs into their prey and wrap their bodies around, killing their prey by constriction, they are seen as a threat to small children, especially since they do not seem to fear humans, and their strength and ability to kill, make it a danger to humans.

It takes about five to seven years for the average python to become sexually mature. Snakes mate in the spring and the female can lay up to 100 eggs; however, the average number is about 30. The female will stay with her eggs, which is not normal with other snake species. The female will coil around her eggs, keeping them in a warm temperature until they hatch about two months later. After hatching the infant snakes are about a foot or so long and are on their own and must fend for themselves. These hatchlings weigh around 4 ounces. They can grow from 13 to 20 feet while the typically smaller males grow from 8 to 17 feet. The males and females can be "distinguished by external features. In males the anal spurs on each side of the cloaca are much more developed than in females. Females often have different coloration and a smaller head relative to the body." It is not known how long that a Burmese python will live in the wild for they have not been marked. However, one of these pythons lived in captivity in a zoo ... 22 years 9 months.

The Burmese python is an endangered species in their native country, and they are hunted there by poachers for their skins. Wild populations are considered to be "threatened." All the giant pythons have historically been slaughtered to supply the world leather market, as well as for folk medicines, and captured for the pet trade. Some are also killed for food, particularly in China. Recently the Burmese Python has been listed as "Vulnerable", reflecting its overall population decline. Important reasons for the decline are trade for skins and for food; habitat degradation may be a problem in some upland areas. In Hong Kong, it is a protected species under Wild Animals Protection Ordinance

Burmese Python Fun Facts

  • Snakes have no eyelids – they never blink. Instead, their eyes are protected by a clear scale.
  • Pythons are considered to be primitive snakes because they have two functioning lungs not one as in most other species.
  • Like members of the boa family, theyalso have vestigial, or left over, hind limbs.
  • These vestigial limbs look like spurs on either side of the base of the tail.
  • Approximately 112,000 of these Asian snakes have been imported into the United States since 1990.
  • Burmese Pythons will kill their prey by suffocation, not with venom.
  • There are reports about this species preying on humans, but these are often myths or unfounded reports.
  • Some jurisdictions have placed restrictions on the keeping of Burmese Pythons as pets.
  • Violators would be imprisoned for more than 7 years or fined $500,000 if convicted.
  • The Burmese python is frequently captive-bred for colour, pattern, and more recently size.
  • It's albino form is especially popular and is the most widely available morph. They are white with patterns in butterscotch yellow and burnt orange.
  • There are also "labyrinth" specimens, which have mazelike patterns; khaki-coloured "green"; and "granite", which have many small angular spots.
  • The newly hatched will often remain inside their egg until they are ready to complete their first shedding of skin, after which they hunt for their first meal.
  • The snake uses its sharp rearward-pointing teeth to seize its prey, then wraps its body around the prey, at the same time contracting its muscles, killing the prey by constriction.
  • Although this species has a reputation for docility, they are very powerful animals, capable of inflicting severe bites or even killing a keeper by constriction.

Did You Know?

  • The Burmese python is one of the six largest snake species in the world.
  • Hailing from India, China and Southeast Asia, it is equally comfortable on the ground or climbing trees.
  • A python only needs to eat the equivalent of its body weight each year.
  • The Burmese python is an excellent swimmer, being able to stay submerged for up to half an hour.

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