Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for Reticuated Python

The reticulated python (Python reticulatus) is the first species on my list found exclusively in Asia.  Crazy, I know!  Asia is HUGE and I managed to avoid all it's animals up until now.  Not on purpose, it just happened.  I think the retic is a good place to start with Asian animals as they are the largest pythons in the world.  Some people believe the anaconda of South America can grow larger than the reticulated python, but the records of live animals in the wild and in zoos reside with the retic. 

Reticulated pythons live in tropical rainforests, often near a source of water.  There is much differentiation in color, however, they are relatively easy to identify based on the net-like pattern and the size of the head.  As the largest python they can reach over 16 feet in length but are commonly recorded at 25 feet or more.  The largest on record in a zoo was 28.5 feet and 320 pounds.  Her name was Colossus and she lived at the Pittsburgh Zoo in the 1950s.

Females are larger than males and can be up to 11 feet long before they reproduce.  She will lay 25-80 eggs which she then incubates for 80-90 days.  This is the only parental care she shows, however, once the eggs hatch they are off on their own.

Reticulated pythons are carnivorous and they will eat small rodents as young and graduate up to large mammals including pigs and even deer.  After a large feeding like that the snake will move itself into a protected location, but one with access to the sun, and digest it's meal.  It will likely not need to feed again for a full year.

Retics face danger from many fronts- habitat destruction, hunting, and the pet trade.  Hundreds of thousands of these animals are taken from the wild each year for meat and skin.  These skins often end up in the hands of unknowing tourists.  The only thing saving these snakes from extinction are their rapid growth rates and high fecundity.  Also, if you are ever faced with the decision to buy a pet snake, please be aware that retics are not the best option.  They shouldn't be an option, period.  They will get larger than the space you have to care for them, the space they need to live comfortably.  As always, fully research any pet, especially exotics, before you buy.