Thursday, December 11, 2008

Vanishing Species - Reticulated Python

Article by Mohan Pai

Indian Pythons
Reticulated Python
(Python reticulatus)

Pic: courtsey David Barker

Reticulated Python - the longest snake in the world can grow up to 33 ft.(9.9m.) in length.

The largest specimen of the reticulated python ever found in the wild was reported in 1912 from the island of Celebes (now known as Sulawesi) in Indonesia. This snake measured thirty-three feet.

The reticulated python gets its name from the distinctive color and pattern on its scales. According to Webster’s International Dictionary the word “reticulated” is an adjective defined as “having lines intercrossed, forming a network.” It is also known as the regal python.

Reticulated Python, the world’s longest snake is found throughout coastal Southeast Asia. Reticulated Python (Python Reticulatus) is the longest snake in the world, and among three Old World Pythons. It is relatively slender and characterized by an attractive pattern - diamond shaped outline highlighted by white spots with light brown background. They are native throughout coastal Southeast Asia, from Myanmar to Nicobar Island, east of Peninsular Malaysia, Vietnam and most of the islands of the Indonesia and Phillipines. In India this species is found in Eastern Assam and Nicobar island.
The reticulated python can be found in variety of habitats, including open woodlands, dense forest, rocky areas, lakes, rivers and swamps. This species is rarely found far away from fresh water. The snake can attain considerable bulk and size, some specimens exceeded weight over 980 pounds and 49 feet, making it the world’s longest snake. However, 10-20 feet is the average length of an adult.


It has been reported that the temperament of this species varies according to different geographical areas. For example, the reticulated python of the Lesser Sundas Islands of Indonesia and central Thailand are more docile and calm snakes in captivity, than in other areas, like the reticulated pythons of Sulawesi Islands of Indonesia are typically irritable and defensive.
These pythons normally resides in humid forest with temperatures ranging from 80-92F. Due to excessive dependence on water these snakes are often found besides small ponds and streams. They avoid daylight. Distinguishes its prey by there movement and their odour. They have heat sensing pits, that is, small rectangular openings in the scales on its lips which help them to sense the warmth of its prey.
Variations in Reticulated Python

The reticulated python incorporates numerous different colors with a complex geometric pattern. The back of the snake has many irregular diamond shapes which are surrounded by small marks with light centers. This species has wide variations due to hybridization in captivity. Two wild subspecies are Python reticulatus saputrai (Selayer retics) and Python reticulatus jampeanus (Jampea retics).
Current variations due to breeding in captive includes, super tiger, tiger, albino (dark lavender, lavender, white, and purple phase), genetic stripe, albino super tiger, albino tiger, golden child, sunfire (this morph may be soon renamed), ivory/white flame, calico, and several others. These snakes have the ability to transform its shades and intensity of the colors. Eye is normally of orange color.

The snake is carnivorous in its food habits. Due to large size the reticulated pythons have built-in capacity to devour large variety of preys. Warm blooded creatures like waterfowl, nesting birds and small to medium animals; also pigs, dogs, goats, large deer and occasionally human being are included in its diet. However, it depends on the size of the snake while eating the size of the prey.
In captive, hatchlings should be given rat pups and small mice, with their growth lager rats should be offered. Other to it, hatchlings should be fed in short intervals, that is, seven days could be ideal. One full diet for adult can be ample for 3-4 weeks. But, egg-laying female’s diet should be double to its normal amount.

Like all snakes, the female reticulated python lays eggs and wrap their powerful bodies around them for two or more months; this is known as brooding and it prevents the eggs from getting too cool or too warm. The female python alternatively contracts and relaxes her muscles and "shivers" to raise temperature of the eggs as well as her body.
The eggs are yellowish or white, shiny, soft and sticky which allows sticking together and prevents from drying out. The eggs measures are 10-13 cm (4-5 in) in length. Clutch size can be between 25-100 eggs, and once they hatched they are abandoned. Hatchlings are around 2 feet in length and may grow the same length per year, but in captivity they some time grow up to 6 feet.
The popularity of reticulated pythons has increased due the pet trade largely for skin, meat, and parts for folk medicine. Apart of it, due to easy feasibility of mutation in captivity it has added to attraction. This snake is extremely rewarding captive, but the owner should have previous experience of handling such a large pythons. This is necessary for both the animal and the keeper.

Very large reticulated pythons have often been kept in zoological parks around the world. Many of them refused food for periods of time and it was common practice for zookeepers to assist or force-feed them. One specimen at the Frankfurt Zoo refused food for 679 days. Another specimen at the Frankfurt Zoo in Germany measuring 24 feet ate a pig that weighed 120 pounds. The largest snake that ever lived in a zoo was a reticulated python named Colossus. She lived at the Pittsburgh Zoo in Pennsylvania. You can find her photograph in a book entitled “The Giant Snakes” by Clifford H. Pope. The author of this classic reptile book reported that she was 22 feet long when captured in Siam (now Thailand) in 1949. Eight years later she reached the length of 28 feet long. Her girth measured 37 inches and her weight was estimated to be more than 320 pounds. The largest reticulated python kept in England was “Cassius.” He was sent to the Knaresborough Zoo in Yorkshire in 1972 after being captured in Malaysia. In 1978 he measured 27 feet and weighed 240 pounds. A reticulated python from Sumatra named “Gina” was raised from a hatchling at the Bali Reptile Park. According the park’s director, she reached the length of 26 feet four inches in only nine years.

Attacks on HumansAttacks on humans are rare, but this species has been responsible for several human fatalities, in both the wild and captivity. They are among the few snakes that have been fairly reliably reported to eat people, although only 1–3 cases of the snake actually eating rather than just killing a human seem to have been verified:Two incidents, apparently in early 20th century Indonesia: On Salibabu, a 14-year-old boy was killed and supposedly eaten by a specimen 5.17 m (c.17 ft) in length. Another incident involved an adult woman reputedly eaten by a "large reticulated python", but few details are known.Franz Werner reports a case from Burma (or Myanmar) either occurring in the early 1910s or in 1927. A jeweller named Maung Chit Chine, who went hunting with his friends, was apparently eaten by a 6 m (20 ft) specimen after he sought shelter from a rainstorm on or under a tree. Supposedly, he was swallowed feet first, contrary to normal snake behavior but the easiest way for a snake to actually swallow a human.In 1932, Frank Buck wrote about a teenage boy who was eaten by a pet 25 ft reticulated python in the Philippines. According to Buck, the python had escaped and when it was found they could recognize a human child shape inside the snake, which later turned out to be the son of the snake's owner.According to Mark Auliya, the corpse of 32-year-old Mangyan Lantod Gumiliu was recovered from the belly of a 7 m (c.23 ft) Reticulated Python on Mindoro, probably in January, 1998. On October 23, 2008 a 25 year old Virginia Beach woman, Amanda Ruth Black, appears to have been killed by a 13-foot pet reticulated python. The apparent cause of death was asphyxiation. The snake was later found in the bedroom in an agitated state.

Considering the known maximum prey size, it is technically possible for a full-grown specimen to open its jaws wide enough to swallow a human child, teenager, or even a small adult, although the flaring shoulders of Homo sapiens would pose a major problem. The victim would almost certainly be dead by the time the snake started swallowing. At least in the 1998 incident, the victim was gathering food or wood in the forest when he happened upon the snake. In any case, it is unlikely that any but the largest specimens are able to kill, let alone eat, an adult human, except if the victim is caught unaware

Web references: Reptile, Wikipedia, Jayashree Pakhare

Bob Clark’s pet “Fluffy” Pic: courtsey Bob Clark

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