Species group: Boas, Anacondas and Pythons
Other common names: Northern African Rock Python; Southern African Rock Python
Scientific name: Python sebae
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
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African Rock Python
This is one of the largest snakes on earth, and has killed people both in its natural habitat and captivity. Although impressive and interesting, it is best reserved for zoos only. Ownership is now regulated in the USA, and a feral population may be established in Florida. Adults require room-sized enclosures equipped with drains, and cannot be safely handled by 1 person. Food, in the form of rabbits and suckling pigs, is quite an expense. Those under my care in zoos remained aggressive, and were never fed or cleaned unless at least 2 experienced zookeepers were on hand..
From findiviglio Jan 4 2014 9:47PM
Do Not get a Rock Python unless you own a Zoo
I had a roommate and we both had a love for exotic pets; we had a few different ones during this time. A friend of his owed him some money that he could not pay and asked my roommate if he would take his Rock Python as payment for the money owed. He agreed, even though he wasn't familiar with the Rock Python, as we already had a Ball Python in the apartment and had an extra large terrarium not being used. The Rock Python was about 3.5 - 4 feet when we recieved him. We quickly came to learn just how powerful this animal really is and how much more extensive the care for this animal will become as it continues to grow. Once full grown this is one of the largest and most powerful snakes in the world. It will require a room size enclosure, it will need to eat very large pray and it can kill you; even at a very small size such as ours was (comparative to the 30 feet it can eventually reach). It was not safe to feed him or even open the tank without a few people there becuase the snake was just too powerful. After a few weeks and the realization that this was not a realistic pet my roommate started looking for zoo's that would take it in. It took him about a year and a half to find one that agreed. During that time we had many close calls including it escaping from the tank and chasing my roommate down the hall where he locked himself in the bathroom until we returned home. THIS IS NOT A PET!! DO NOT GET A ROCK PYTHON!! I say this as someone who loves sankes and knows that the right snake can make a wonderful and awesome pet. I hope the Rock Python has a nice life in a zoo somewhere..
From TonyP Aug 29 2014 3:17PM