African Rock Python

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Is the African Rock Python right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Northern African Rock Python; Southern African Rock Python

Scientific name: Python sebae

The basics:
The massive African Rock Python is among the world’s 3 or 4 longest snakes, and is exceeded in girth only by the Green Anaconda. It is one of only 2 species documented to have preyed upon humans in the wild, and even sub-adult pets have been responsible for fatalities. Although available in the pet trade in some areas, this behemoth is best kept in zoos rather than private collections.

The African Rock Python inhabits much of Sub-Saharan Africa, being found in 31 countries from Mauritania and Sudan south to Zimbabwe. Released pets may have established a breeding population in south Florida, USA. It can be found in a wide range of habitats, including savannas, river margins, mangrove swamps, brushy grasslands, thorn scrub, rock kopjes, rainforests and desert borders. African Rock Pythons also adapt well to human presence, and in some regions are quite common around farms, ranches and village outskirts. Some taxonomists recognize two subspecies - P. s. sebae, the Northern African Rock Python, and P. s. natalensis, the Southern, while others consider southern populations to comprise a distinct species, P. natalensis.

Appearance / health:
The African Rock Python is heavy-bodied, approaching an adult female Green Anaconda in mass, and averages 13-16 feet in length, with some individuals exceeding 20 feet. Only the Green Anaconda, and Burmese, Reticulated, and Amethystine Pythons occasionally exceed it in length. The largest individuals tend to be found in the northern and central portions of the range, and far from human habitation. The background color varies greatly through shades of tan, brown, olive-green and yellow, and is marked with dark blotches and, on occasion, irregular stripes.

Behavior / temperament:
These large, dangerous constrictors have a bad reputation among zookeepers and private keepers alike. Most remain high-strung and aggressive even after years in captivity, and do not take well to handling. Two or more experienced people should always assist when snakes of 6 feet or more in length are handled.

All but hatchling African Rock Pythons will require large commercial enclosures and, in time, a homemade cage or re-designed room. Security is a major concern, as they are immensely powerful; escapees have caused human fatalities on several occasions. The huge volume of waste produced by even moderately-sized individuals necessitates a floor drain in most cases. Cypress mulch, eucalyptus bark, tile or rubber mats are preferable to newspapers as substrates for all except young pythons. Adults are best kept in rubber or tile-bottomed enclosures that can be scrubbed and hosed-out. A dry cave or hollow log should be provided as a shelter. Ambient temperature: 75-85 F; Basking temperature: 90-95 F.

African Rock Pythons produce huge quantities of waste products that must be removed as they appear. In most instances, a floor drain is necessary for proper upkeep. Two well-experienced adults should be on hand when cages housing snakes in excess of 6 feet in length are serviced.

Clifford Pope’s description (in The Giant Snakes) of a 130 pound Impala Antelope being consumed by an African Rock Python may be the largest snake meal ever documented. Adult leopards, young wildebeests, monkeys, wart hogs, pouched rats, hyrax, monitor lizards, crocodiles, cranes, bats and a mind-boggling array of other creatures have also been recorded as prey. Individuals living near human habitations add goats, dogs, pigs, geese and, on rare occasions, people, to their diets. In 2013, an escaped African Rock Python made headlines after killing a 60 pound husky in a Florida backyard. Captive hatchlings are large enough to take adult mice, and soon graduate to rats. Larger snakes may be fed rabbits (usually less expensive than several rats), ducks, chickens and suckling pigs. Extreme care must be used at feeding time...two well-experienced adults should always be present.

Clutches contain 20-100 eggs, which hatch in approximately 90 days at 85-88 F. Females guard and incubate their eggs, and become extremely aggressive throughout the breeding season. Hatchlings average 16-20 inches in length.

Written by Frank Indiviglio


beautiful gentle giants, zookeepers, experienced keepers, Overall amazing snakes


large prey items, expense, room size enclosure, close calls, Large snakes


heavy snakes, feral population, largest snakes

African Rock Python Behavior Tip

African Rock Python

From TonyP Aug 29 2014 3:17PM


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