Not so bold but beautiful

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Snakes – people either love them, hate them or accept them with the indifference reserved for a necessary evil.

Pythons, being among the largest snakes in the world, are one of the more well-known and popular species, and Burmese pythons are often kept as pets or used for exhibitions and shows.

The African rock python is a large attractive snake with beautiful dark brown patches and lighter stripes along its length. Olive, chestnut and yellow markings have also been recorded. There is a spear-shaped marking on the top of its head and dark and light bands radiate from eye to lip.

Despite its aggressive reputation, the African rock python is relatively harmless to people and there are very few incidents recorded of fatalities involving this snake, especially when compared to the venomous snakes.

Amongst the local African people, the rock python is both feared and revered. For example in Zimbabwe, the River God Nyami Nyami is thought to be a massive rock python.

There are seven species of snake in the genus Python. The only one of these that occurs in the Thornybush area is Python sebae (subsp. natalensis). They are quite common and found in a diverse range of habitats such as savannah, grassland, semi-desert, forests and on the edges of swamps, lakes and rivers.

Although the snake is not endangered, habitat reduction and hunting do pose a threat to its survival. Despite this, they often occur in cane fields near human habituation, where they prey mainly on cane rats.

Other animals on the python's menu include monkeys, small antelope, fish, monitor lizards, crocodiles, guineafowl and occasionally domestic animals, such as dogs and goats.

Prey is killed by constriction and then swallowed whole. The snake launches itself with lightning fast speed at the target, securing it with its sharp, backwardly curved teeth and winding its coils around it in an ever-tightening grip until the animal dies from cardiac arrest.

The larger the snake, the larger the meal it is able to secure. Most rock pythons mature to about 4.5m in length with some specimens of up to 6m long recorded.

Reproduction is by egg-laying and the female produces about 30 to 50 eggs which can take between 65 and 80 days to hatch. The female incubates the eggs, leaving only to drink water and will protect her nest and hatchlings if they are threatened.

Spotting an African rock python in the wild is an extremely lucky sighting due to their excellent camouflage and shy habits.


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Saturday, 15 December 2018