Reticulated python

Python reticulatus

TAXONOMY

Python reticulatus Schneider, 1801, no type locality specified in original description but later designated as "Java".

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Regal python; French: Python réticulé; German: Netzpython.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

This is a giant python, one of the largest snake species. Hatch-lings measure 18-35 in (46-89 cm) in length. Most adults are 12-15 ft (3.7-4.6 m), and specimens of 20 ft (6.1 m) are not uncommon.

DISTRIBUTION

This species occurs on the Nicobar Islands in India and throughout most of Southeast Asia from southeastern Bangladesh east to Vietnam and south through western Malaysia to Singapore. The species is widespread throughout the Philippines and Indonesia.

HABITAT

Throughout their extensive range, reticulated pythons can be found in a variety of habitats, including dense forest, open woodlands, rocky areas, caves, swamps, rivers, and lakes. This species is seldom found far from fresh water.

BEHAVIOR

The keepers of reticulated pythons report that there is geographic variation of the temperament of this species. For example, the reticulated pythons of central Thailand and of the Lesser Sundas Islands of Indonesia can be expected to be calm and docile snakes in captivity; from other areas, such as the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, reticulated pythons are typically irritable and defensive.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Taking advantage of their large size, reticulated pythons are known to consume a wide variety of prey, including primates, pangolins, rodents, canids, felids, waterfowl, pigs, and cervids.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

A reticulated python usually becomes sexually mature in its third or fourth year. At the onset of maturity, males are usually 7-10 ft (2.1-3.1 m) in length. Females become mature at 10-13 ft (3.1-4 m). The eggs of this species measure 4-5 in (10-13 cm) in length. Clutch size can exceed 100 eggs. Hatch-lings are 24-35 in (61-89 cm) in length. Babies are similar to adults in color and pattern.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Nothing is known about the numbers in the wild. More than half a million skins of reticulated pythons are harvested officially each year, and the actual numbers are likely greater. There is anecdotal evidence and reports that populations are in decline in some areas where there are active skinning businesses and in areas of dense human population, but throughout most of the range the species is believed to be holding its own.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Reticulated pythons are hunted for meat, skin, and parts for folk medicine. They also are persecuted as predators of domestic livestock and feared as predators of humans. They are common in captivity, but the large size of the species makes them unsuitable for most keepers. ♦

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