Amelanistic Burmese Python
Meet Melani (f), born 2005
Species: Python molurus
Subspecies: Python molurus bivittatus
Melanie, like many of our animals, needed a home. She came to us from an owner who loved Melanie very much but had to give her up when his wife moved in with two cats and an ultimatum. After much due diligence, he decided that Out of Africa Wildlife Park would make the best home for Melanie. We could not be happier with his decision (for us and his wife), as Melanie has touched our hearts and thrilled many visitors. Her peaceful and amiable nature makes her the perfect ambassador for many of our educational programs.
The Burmese python is the largest subspecies of the Indian Python and one of the six largest snakes in the world, native to a large variation of tropic and sub-tropic areas of Southern and Southeast Asia, including eastern India, Nepal, Western Bhutan, Southeast Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, northern continental Malaysia, Southern China and in Indonesia on Java, Southern Sulawesi, Bali, and Sumbawa. This python is an excellent swimmer and needs a permanent source of water. It can be found in grasslands, marshes, swamps, rocky foothills, woodlands, river valleys, and jungles with open clearings. Pythons are good climbers and have prehensile tails.
The importation and keeping of Burmese pythons in Florida has led to some rather serious problems. People who no longer wish to care for their pythons, or whose pythons have grown too large to be kept in their houses, have been known to release their pets into the wild rather than to have them re-homed. This has been particularly problematic in South Florida, where a large number of pythons have made their way to the Everglades. There they have thrived and reproduced prolifically, becoming an invasive species. Since they have been known to eat endangered birds and alligators, these snakes present a new danger to an already fragile ecosystem.
As one of the 6 biggest kinds of snakes in the world, Burmese pythons can weigh up to 200 pounds and grow up to 20 feet long. The largest pythons are always female. They can grow from 13 to 20 feet while the typically smaller males grow from 8 to 17 feet. However, most Burmese pythons in general grow to a length of around 12 feet. The males and females can be distinguished by external features. In males the anal spurs on each side of the cloaca are much more developed than in females. It’s unknown how long the Burmese python will live in the wild. The snake’s body and its organs are long and thin. Pythons are constrictors, therefore they don’t have fangs; instead, they have rearward- pointing teeth, and they are non-venomous. Snakes usually only have one thin lung. However, pythons have two, one of which is considerably smaller than the other. They lack eyelids. However, they do have a thin, protective epidermal membrane covering the eyes. The lighter-colored amelanistic form of this snake is especially popular and is widely available. They are white with patterns in butterscotch yellow and burnt orange. Contrary to popular belief, the amelanistic Burmese python is not an albino form of the Burmese python. Amelanistic means lack of melanin, which is black pigment, while albinism is caused by a genetic mutation. “Amelanistics” almost always have normal colored eyes.
Burmese python hatchlings are anywhere from 18 to 29 inches. These hatchlings weigh around 4 ounces. Burmese pythons breed early in the spring months. The females lay 12 to 48 eggs in the spring. After they lay the eggs, they gather them all together and coil around them to incubate. They will lay coiled around the eggs until they hatch. The female python is the only snake that can raise its own body temperature. While they are keeping the eggs warm, the muscles will tremble and these movements help the female to increase the temperature around the eggs. They will never leave the eggs for eating. Once the baby pythons are hatched, they must learn to exist alone and fend for themselves. They will often remain inside their egg until they are ready to complete their first shedding of skin, after which they hunt for their first meal.
Burmese pythons are mainly nocturnal rainforest dwellers. When younger they are equally at home on the ground and in trees, but as they gain girth they tend to restrict most of their movements to the ground. They are also excellent swimmers, able to stay submerged for up to half an hour. Burmese pythons spend the majority of their time hidden in the underbrush.
Like all snakes, Burmese pythons are carnivorous. Their diet consists primarily of appropriately sized birds and mammals, including rats, rabbits and poultry. The snake uses its sharp rearward-pointing teeth to seize its prey; then it wraps its body around the prey, at the same time contracting its muscles, killing the prey by constriction. Pythons are able to swallow their prey whole because of their hinged jaws. These jaws separate, allowing them to intake kill up to 5 times the size of the head. A python’s keenest sense is its olfaction. Pythons are able to smell with the aid of the Jacobson’s organ, also known as the vomeronasal organ, in the roof of the mouth. They dart their tongues in and out of their mouths to obtain gases from the air. The tongue brings in small particles to this organ so pythons can catch their prey in light or dark conditions.
- They have small heat pits, or holes, in their upper lip which allows them to detect heat radiations that are in the air from animals close by.
- The Burmese python has nearly four hundred sets of ribs.
- One of their ambush techniques to catch food is to lie submerged in a stream or slow-moving river with only their heads above the water, waiting for a bird or small mammal to come to the water’s edge.
Ecology and Conservation:
Wild populations are considered to be threatened and are listed on Appendix II of CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention). All the giant pythons (including the Indian python, the African rock python, and the reticulated python) have historically been slaughtered to supply the world leather market, folk medicines, and pet trade. Some are also killed for food, particularly in China.