AppearanceBurmese Pythons are dark-coloured snakes with many brown blotches bordered in black down the back. The perceived attractiveness of their skin pattern contributes to their popularity with both reptile keepers and the leather industry. The pattern is similar in colour, but different in actual pattern to the African Rock Python , sometimes resulting in confusion of the two species outside of their natural habitats.
In the wild, Burmese pythons grow to 3.7 metres on average, while specimens of more than 4 metres are uncommon. In general, individuals over 5 metres are rare. The record maximum length for Burmese Pythons is held by a female named "Baby“, that lived at Serpent Safari, Gurnee, Illinois for 27 years. Shortly after death, her actual length was determined to be 5.74 metres . Widely published data of specimens that were reported to have been even several feet longer are not verified. There are dwarf forms on Java, Bali and Sulawesi. At Bali they reach an average length of 2 metres and on Sulawesi they achieve a maximum of 2.5 metres .
NamingThe importation and keeping of Burmese Pythons in Florida has led to some rather serious problems. People who no longer wish to care for their pythons, or whose pythons have grown too large to be kept in their houses, have been known to release their pets into the wild rather than have them re-homed or even humanely euthanized. This has been particularly problematic in South Florida, along with possible zoo, warehouse, and household escapees from Hurricane Andrew, where a large number of pythons have made their way to the Everglades. They have thrived there, begun to reproduce prolifically, and become an invasive species. Over 1330 have been captured in the Everglades. Since they have been known to eat endangered birds and alligators, these snakes present a new danger to an already fragile ecosystem. In February 2008, USGS scientists published a projected range map for the US, based on average climate data of the snake's home range and global warming projections, which predicted that these snakes could eventually migrate to and flourish in as much as a third of the continental United States by the end of the 21st century. However, a subsequent study produced a map incorporating both climatic extremes and averages, which showed the Burmese python's range to be limited to Southern Florida.
New figures from areas of the Everglades where the snakes are well established are alarming. Foxes and rabbits have disappeared. Sightings of raccoons are down by 99.3 per cent, opossums by 98.9 per cent, and white-tailed deer by 94.1 per cent. A paper published by the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, claims bird and coyote populations are threatened, alongside already-rare rival predatory species, such as Florida panthers.
StatusWild populations are considered to be "threatened" and are listed on Appendix II of CITES. 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.
In Hong Kong, it is a protected species under Wild Animals Protection Ordinance Cap 170.
BehaviorBurmese Pythons are mainly nocturnal rainforest dwellers. When younger they are equally at home on the ground and in trees, but as they gain girth they tend to restrict most of their movements to the ground. They are also excellent swimmers, being able to stay submerged for up to half an hour. Burmese Pythons spend the majority of their time hidden in the underbrush. In the northern parts of its range, the Indian python may brumate for some months during the cold season in a hollow tree, a hole in the riverbank or under rocks. Brumation...hieroglyph snipped... is biologically distinct from hibernation. While the behaviour has similar benefits, specifically to endure the winter without moving, it also involves preparation of both male and female reproductive organs for the upcoming breeding season. There is controversy over whether the Burmese subspecies is able to brumate, and it is believed by experts to be unable to distinguish between a slight chill and dangerous cold weather.
Burmese Pythons breed in the early spring, with females laying clutches which average 12–36 eggs in March or April. She will remain with the eggs until they hatch, wrapping around them and twitching her muscles in such a way as to raise the ambient temperature around the eggs by several degrees. Once the hatchlings use their egg tooth to cut their way out of their eggs, there is no further maternal care. 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.
HabitatThe Burmese Python is found throughout Southern- and Southeast Asia including Eastern India, 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. This python is an excellent swimmer and needs a permanent source of water. It can be found in grasslands, marshes, swamps, rocky foothills, woodlands, river valleys, and jungles with open clearings. They are good climbers and have prehensile tails.
FoodLike all snakes, Burmese Pythons are carnivorous. Their diet consists primarily of appropriately-sized birds and mammals. 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. They are often found near human habitation due to the presence of rats, mice and other vermin as a food source. However, their equal affinity for domesticated birds and mammals means that they are often treated as pests. In captivity their diet consists primarily of commercially-available, appropriately-sized rats, and graduates to larger items such as rabbits and poultry as they grow. Exceptionally large pythons may even require larger food items such as pigs or goats, and are known to have attacked and eaten alligators in Florida, where they are an invasive species. They have been known to swallow entire deer as well.
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