• Fri
  • Aug 22, 2014
  • Updated: 11:30am

An exotic reptile

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 March, 2008, 12:00am

Quick Facts

Common name: Burmese python

Scientific name: Python molurus bivittatus

Native home: Southeast Asia's rain forests

Estimated numbers: Uncertain. Protected in Hong Kong

Size: Adults grow up to eight metres long and weigh about 180 kilograms. Females are typically larger than males.

Burmese pythons live in our forests. Young pythons enjoy hanging about in trees, but adults mostly stay on the ground. They are also good swimmers and can stay underwater for up to half an hour.

These reptiles prey on birds and mammals, such as rats, rabbits and chicken. The bigger the snake, the bigger the prey they will tackle. A few really big ones will eat goats, deer and wild boar.

These carnivores will lie in wait for suitable prey, wrap themselves around it, and squeeze until their quarry suffocates.

Hong Kong's biggest snake is nocturnal so you are most likely to see it at night.

The Burmese python grows until it is four years old and then remains the same size. Wild and tame specimens can live up to 20 years.

True or False?

a. Burmese pythons are carnivores.

b. Pythons kill their prey by crushing their bones.

c. Burmese pythons can grow up to 8m long.

Home Life

Fill in the blanks with these words: reproduction, hibernation, temperature, stimulate

Burmese pythons who live in places with cool winters spend several months in brumation, a time when they lower their body temperatures.

While it looks a little like _________________, a system whereby mammals lower their metabolic rate so they can survive on very little food during long winters, brumation is different.

A snake's brumation triggers physical changes important for________________. Brumation helps ________________ egg production in females and sperm production in males.

Burmese pythons breed in the spring, with females laying 12-36 eggs in March or April. The female guards the nest for two to three months, raising her own body ________________ to keep the eggs warm if the air temperature drops.

Once the eggs hatch, the mother leaves the hatchlings to fend for themselves.

Threats

Find a synonym for these words: confinement, folk, turn into

There are plenty of Burmese pythons in captivity but wild populations are threatened and protected in many places, including Hong Kong.

Like all giant pythons the Burmese snake is killed for its beautiful skin and for traditional medicine. In China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia, these snakes are also hunted for food.

Snakes that live in areas where forests are being converted to agricultural land also face danger from pesticides and rats that have been poisoned by farmers.

Invasive Species

Choose the correct alternative:

Populations of wild Burmese pythons in their native Southeast Asian wetlands/forests are threatened, but there is a huge new breeding colony in Florida, United States that is thriving/vanishing.

American pet owners, unable to cope with their fast-growing, ever-hungry snakes, release them into the wild. As these snakes have little co-operation/competition in their new habitat, they become top predators.

Scientists report that Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades are now competing with alligators. And the bigger snakes are able to beat the alligators!

The Florida colony is now estimated at about 30,000 snakes.

fab fact!

The current record holder as the world's heaviest snake is Baby, a Burmese python who lives in the Serpent Safari Park in Illinois, United States. Baby measures 8.23m and weighs 183kg!

fab fact!

Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens have two Burmese pythons. The larger one that is about four metres long was born in a zoo. The other one was adopted from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. They haven't been named yet so why not go over for a look and suggest some good names?

fab fact!

Snakes are graceful, beautiful pets but they need specialised care. They need a supply of live fresh mice, rats or bigger creatures and very large cages designed to look like their natural home - be it a rainforest or desert. This can be expensive. You may also need to budget for trips to zoo vets if your pet becomes ill.

Quiz

Answer the following questions. To test your memory, try answering without referring to the text. If you can't remember the details, read the piece again.

1. Burmese pythons grow up to:

a. 3m long

b. 5m long

c. 8m long

2. Adult female Burmese pythons are:

a. bigger than the males

b. smaller than the males

c. the same size as the males

3. Burmese pythons live:

a. near oceans and swamps

b. in forests and woods

c. in sandy and rocky deserts

4. What do Burmese pythons eat?

a. Meat like rats and chicken

b. insects like snails and cockroaches

c. a mix of insects and flowers

5. The Burmese python in Florida is ....

a. extinct

b. an invasive species

c. a native species

6. The world's heaviest Burmese python:

a. is Baby who weighs 88kg

b. is Lady who weighs 158kg

c. is Baby who weighs 183kg

Answers

True or false: 1. T, 2. F, 3. T

Fill in the blanks: hibernation, reproduction, stimulate, temperature

Synonyms: captivity, traditional, converted

Correct alternative: forests, thriving, competition

Quiz: 1. c, 2. a, 3. b, 4. a, 5. b, 6. c

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