Classification and Range
The Indian python (Python molurus molurus) belongs to the family of snakes, Boidae, which contains the world's largest snake species including pythons, boas and anacondas. The family Boidae is further divided into several subfamilies; pythons belong to the subfamily Pythoninae. The Indian python is one of two subspecies, the other being the Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus). Both subspecies are commonly referred to as the Asian rock python (Python molurus). The lighter colored Indian python is native to India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The darker colored Burmese python ranges from Myanmar, eastward through southern Asia to southeastern China and Indonesia, excluding the island of Sumatra.
Indian pythons live in a wide range of habitats including river valleys, woodlands, forests, grasslands, swamps, marshes and rocky foothills. The Indian python is dependent on a continuous water supply.
Length and Weight
The record size for an adult Indian python is about 21 feet (6.4 m). Most adult individuals are much smaller, rarely exceeding 12 feet (3.7 m). The Burmese variety tends to be longer and heavier. The record weight for an adult Indian python may be more than 200 pounds (91 kg). A typical adult Indian python weighs between 70-120 pounds (32-55 kg)
In the wild: Indian pythons predominantly eat mammals and birds.
At the zoo: Whole rats and chickens.
Indian pythons become sexually mature at about 3 years of age. When courting a female Indian python, a male will crawl after her and use his anal spurs (vestigial legs) to stroke and stimulate her. He then wraps himself around her and they mate. About three to four months after mating, the female may lay up to 100 eggs in a single clutch, although 20-60 is more common.
Newly hatched Indian pythons range from 18-24 inches (46-61 cm) in length. Young snakes leave the nest soon after hatching, and their first shed usually occurs within seven to 10 days. During their first year of life, they can double or triple in length.
All Wrapped Up
Although large Indian pythons spend most of their time on the ground, they are skillful at climbing and moving through trees, and even swimming in water. Their dramatic skin pigmentation of intricate earth tone patterns enables pythons to blend in with their natural setting. A hungry python will lie in ambush, patiently waiting for suitable prey to pass.
Most pythons have heat-sensitive pits located on their upper lips that detect the body heat of prey. When a prey animal comes within range, the python seizes it in its powerful jaws, then quickly wraps itself around the animal's body and constricts tighter and tighter, until the prey animal can’'t breathe and suffocates (constricting snakes don't crush their prey). The prey, which can be as large as a small deer, is swallowed whole. After its meal, a python can survive for weeks, even months, without another meal.
Most snakes do not attend to their eggs after they are laid. In this respect, female Indian pythons are truly devoted mothers. Laying her eggs in a pile, the female python coils herself around the eggs and guards them from nest-robbing predators throughout a two to three month incubation period. During this period, she only occasionally leaves her eggs to drink and more rarely to eat. The Indian python actually keeps her eggs warmer than the environment around her. She accomplishes this by twitching her muscles to keep her body temperature a few degrees warmer than the surrounding air.
Location at the Zoo
Woodland Park Zoo's new Indian python area, located at the Trail of Vines exhibit in Tropical Asia, simulates their natural environment through the use of vegetation, a pool and arboreal pathways made from dead trees. Visitors can watch Indian pythons close up as they move on and above ground, much as they would in their natural setting.
The Indian python (Python molurus molurus) is endangered throughout its range. Habitat destruction and hunting for skins to make tourist products or souvenirs contribute to the decline of the Indian python.
Humans need lizards and other reptiles.
Here are only a few of the benefits they provide:
•Reptiles help keep animal populations in balance.
•Reptiles consume many animals that humans consider as pests, including mice, rats and destructive species of insects. This helps to control disease and damage to crops.
•Snake venom is used in medical research and provides effective medicines to fight certain human diseases.
How You Can Help!
The effort to save endangered species like the Indian python requires cooperation and support at the regional, national and international levels. You can help in this cause. Join and become active in Woodland Park Zoo and other conservation organizations of your choice. Please do not buy products made from wild animal parts. Contact your elected representatives and express your views about conservation of endangered species and wild habitats.
In the Puget Sound region, you may contact the Pacific Northwest Herpetological Society as a resource. Contact Woodland Park Zoo at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about ways you can support conservation programs at the zoo. Discover more about snakes by contacting the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles at 303 W. 39th St., P.O. Box 626, Hays, KS 67601. Learn other ways you can help conserve wildlife and the habitats they require for survival by visiting our How You Can Help page.
Reptiles as Pets
We do not recommend reptiles as pets for most people as they require very specialized diets and environments. We also receive hundreds of requests each year to take former pet iguanas, boas and other reptiles but we cannot accept these due to space, health and unknown backgrounds. If you need to find a reptile or amphibian a new home, we suggest you contact a local herpetological group in your area.
Sources and Suggested Reading
Burton, Maurice. 1984. Encyclopedia of Reptiles, Amphibians & Other Cold-Blooded Animals. BPC Publishing Ltd., San Sebastian, Spain. 252 p.
Mattison, Chris. 1986. Snakes of the World. Facts On Life Publications, New York, NY. 190 p.
Pope, Clifford. 1961. The Giant Snakes. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY. 290 p.
Markle, Sandra. 1995. Outside and Inside Snakes. MacMillian Books, New York, NY. 40 p.
Resmick, Jane P. 1996. Eyes on Nature: Snakes. Kidsbooks, Inc., Chicago, IL. 29 p.
Zoobooks. 1992. Snakes. Wildlife Education, Ltd., San Diego, CA. 16 p.