Asiatic Rock Python

(Python molurus)


Asiatic Rock Python IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)


Facts about this animal

The species P. molurus, the Asiatic rock python is divided into two recognized subspecies, which can be distinguished by physical characteristics: The Burmese python (P. molurus bivittatus) can grow to lengths of about 7.5 m and can weigh as much as 140 kg and is as such one of the six biggest snakes in the world. Indian pythons (P. molurus molurus) stay smaller, reaching a maximum of about 6.5 m in length, and weighing as much as 90 kg. Usually however their size is around 4 – 5,5 meters (and 40 kg), males staying ususally smaller than females. Both subspecies are marked with a rectangular mosaic type individual pattern that runs the full length of the animal. P. molurus bivitatus is more darkly colored, with shades of reddish to brown and dark cream rectangles that lay over a dark brown or black background. This subspecies is also characterized by an arrow-shaped (Y shaped) marking present on the top of the head, which begins the pattern. A brown stripe runs from the nostril though the eye to the corner of the mouth. P. molurus molurus has similar markings with light brown and tan rectangles placed over a typically cream cloured background and has only a partial arrow-shaped marking on the top of the head. The head stands off only moderately from the neck, the body is strong and very muscular. The belly is whitish to grey. Like other pythons they also have what are commonly called “spurs”, i.e. vestigial or rudimentary limbs situated on either side of the anal vent. This nocturnal species has very poor eyesight. To compensate for this, it has a highly developed sense of smell, and heat pits within each scale along the upper lip, which sense the warmth of nearby prey and allow to hunt in complete darkness. They may even stalk prey following the trail. When resting during daytime they can be found in trees (they are good climbers with their prehensile tails) as well as in abandoned mammal burrows, hollow trees, and on the ground in dense water reeds and mangrove thickets. But they are also expert swimmers and are quite at home in water. They can stay wholly submerged in water without breathing for up to thirty minutes at a time. but usually prefer to remain near the bank. They feed on mammals, birds and reptiles indiscriminately, but seem to prefer mammals, like mice, rats, pigs, deer a. o.. Roused to activity on sensing prey, the snake will advance with quivering tail and lunge with open mouth. Live prey is constricted and killed by suffocation. One or two coils are used to hold it in a tight grip. The prey is subsequently swallowed head first. Even considerable large prey items are swallowed whole. To accomplish this, P. molurus dislocates its jaw and stretches its highly elastic skin around the prey. This allows these snakes to swallow food items many times larger than their own heads. After a heavy meal, they are disinclined to move and may fast for weeks If disturbed or threatened by a potential predator and forced to move, some specimens will disgorge their meal in order to escape. Python molurus is a solitary species. Mating is the only time that these snakes are commonly found in pairs. During courtship in early spring, the male wraps his body around the female and repeatedly flicks his tongue across her head and body. Once they align their cloacas, the male uses his vestigial legs to massage the female and stimulate her. Copulation ensues, with the female raising her tail to allow the male to insert one hemipenis (he has two) into the female's cloaca. This process lasts between 5-30 minutes. Approximately 3-4 months later, the female will lay up to 100 eggs, (12 – 36) averageeach weighing as much as 207 g. At this time the female generally coils around the eggs in preparation for an incubation period. Incubation lasts between 2-3 months. During incubation female Python molurus use muscular contractions or "shivers" to raise their body temperatures slightly higher than the surrounding air temperature. It is very uncommon for a mother to leave the eggs during incubation. The hatchlings are 45-60 cm (18-24 in) in length and grow quickly.

Did you know?
Due to the difficulties of keeping such a large snake as a pet, some owners have released them into the wild, creating an established breeding population in Florida. This has caused widespread concern as they occupy a place at the top of the food chain. According to a report in 2005 over 230 have been captured in the Florida Everglades where they are competing with alligators as the dominant predator. In recent years this competition has resulted in what officials describe as a draw. Recent estimates put the wild population of Burmese Pythons in Florida at approximately 30,000.The Burmese Python is frequently captive bred for colour, pattern, and more recently size. The albino form of the Burmese Python is especially popular and is the most widely available morph. It is white with patterns in butterscotch yellow and burnt orange. There are also "Labyrinth" specimens, which have mazelike patterns, khaki coloured "Green" Burmese pythons, and "Granite" Burmese pythons, which have many small angular spots. Breeders have recently begun working with an island lineage of Burmese Pythons. Early reports indicate that these "Dwarf" Burmese have a slightly different colouring and pattern than their mainland relatives and do not grow much over 2.1 meters. One of the most sought-after of these variations is the leucistic Burmese. This particular variety is very rare, and has not been reproduced in captivity. It is entirely bright white with no pattern and black eyes.


Name (Scientific) Python molurus
Name (English) Asiatic Rock Python
Name (French) Python molure
Name (German) Tigerpython
Name (Spanish) Piton de la India
CITES Status Appendix II, except P. molurus molurus which is listed in Appendix I
CMS Status Not listed



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Range Python molurus bivittatus (Burmese Python): Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Viet Nam. Python molurus molurus (incl. P. m. pimbura) (Indian Python): Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka
Habitat Asiatic rock-pythons occupy a variety of habitats including rainforests, river valleys, woodlands, scrublands, grasslands, grassy marshes, swamps and rocky foothills. They are usually found in areas that can provide sufficient cover and even near human habitations due to the presence of rats and other vermin as a food source. In particular however this species is never found very far from water sources (sometimes this excellent swimmer leads an almost semi-aquatic life), and seems to prefer very damp terrain.
Wild population These snakes have often been killed for their skin (for the reptile leather market) and meat. The meat is eaten by locals as the fat it purported to have medicinal value. Also there has been a trade in live specimens for the pet trade. Consequently some wild populations are considered to be threatened and are fully protected locally. In more recent years extensive captive breeding of P. molurus has lead to a decrease of the importation of wild caught specimens for the pet trade.

In the Zoo

Asiatic Rock Python


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 43 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


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Photo Copyright by
Paul Asman & Jill Lenoble