African Rock Python

The African rock python is Africa’s largest species of snake as well as one of the 5 largest in the world. It is one of seven different species in the Python genus and there are two subspecies; one found in western Africa and the other in southern Africa. The southern subspecies can be distinguished chiefly by its distinctly smaller size.
African Rock Python
A typical adult rock python grows to around 16 ft. and can achieve weights of between 97 and 121 pounds. There have been reliable reports of snakes that were over 20 feet in length and weighing over 200 pounds. The size of these snakes can vary greatly and they are usually smaller in very populated regions. The males are generally smaller than the females.

The rock python has a thick body that is covered by colored blotches that often join together to form a wide, irregular stripe. The markings can vary in color; from brown, chestnut, olive, or yellow, and fading into white on the snake’s underside. A dark brown spade-shaped mark that is outlined in yellow marks the top of its triangular head.

Rock pythons can be found throughout sub-Saharan Africa ranging from Senegal eastward to Somalia and Ethiopia and southward to South Africa and Namibia. They inhabit a wide range of terrain including savannas, forests, grasslands, and semi-arid, rocky areas, but as with so many African animals, they like to remain near a permanent water source; this makes them particularly plentiful around swamps, rivers, and lakes. They are very adaptable and are often found near cane fields and other areas inhabited by humans.

Like other members of the python family, the rock python is a non-venomous snake. It is a constrictor and takes its prey by coiling around it and tightening the coils each time the victim exhales. Their diet consists mainly of other African animals such as large rodents, warthogs, monkeys, fruit bats, and antelope, but it has been known to take monitor lizards and even the occasional crocodile. In suburban areas it is common for them to prey on poultry, goats, and dogs. After killing their prey, the constrictor then consumes it whole.

Reproduction takes place in the spring each year. The female lays between 20 and 100 eggs in caves, animal burrows, or termite mounds. The mother shows an unusual characteristic for snakes in that she actually protects the nest and sometime even the hatchlings. She coils around the eggs until they are hatched, with takes around 90 days, and in some cases will guard the young for the first week or two. Baby pythons are identical to the adult except for their size and the fact that their colors are more vivid.

Rock pythons are still fairly common and are not currently at risk for extinction, but international trade is carefully monitored because many people keep them as pets. This has led to the African rock python being declared an invasive species in the Florida Everglades. Released pets have reproduced and are now posing a serious threat to native wildlife.