Bio Facts: Python, African Rock
African Rock Python
Python sebae sebae
Central and southern Africa
Rock outcroppings on the savanna, as well as near streams, rivers and lakes.
The average length is 15-20 feet, but can reach 32 feet. The head is triangular shaped; yet they are not venomous. Coloration is dark brown with light brown areas on the back with a wavy stripe outlined in yellow-gold along each side.
Can exceed 20 years in captivity.
In the wild, they eat lizards, fish, birds and mammals. In the Zoo, they are fed rabbits.
The female incubates and protects the eggs by coiling around them. Clutch size can be up to 100 eggs. The average is closer to 40 eggs. The incubation period is approximately 3 months. Hatchlings are 18-24 inches long.
Hunting is done in the evening. The African rock python waits quietly for its prey to approach. Prey is suffocated when it is squeezed by sections of the snake’s body.
They are not vulnerable to predators unless they have just consumed a large meal, which slows them down. Wild dogs and hyenas are their main predators.
Very good swimmers. Like other snakes, rock pythons have the ability to stretch jaws and skin to consume large prey. The lower jaw is loosely attached to the skull and not connected in front. This allows the mouth to be flexible enough to swallow very large prey (prey two to three times the diameter of body). The African rock python can inflict very deep wounds due to long, curved teeth.
The African rock python is the third largest snake in the world. Some of them are large enough to consume antelope that exceed 120 lbs.
The Venda, a South African tribe, believe that in the beginning, a huge snake called Tharu (Python) resided in the mountain slopes that are now the home of the Vendas. When there was a terrible drought, Tharu divided himself into 2 segments: Thoho, the Head, and Tshamutshila, the Tail. Both segments went on a search for food and water. Tshamutshila went to the west, which is now the country of the Vendas. He became human, gathered herds of cattle, and became the ancestor of the Venda people. Thoho went to the east (now called Mozambique), and founded the Ronga people.
In some parts of Africa, people believe that if a dead python is found, it must be burned or drought will follow. In parts of West Africa, the python is considered a sacred animal. In Dahomey, African rock pythons are kept in special quarters where priests and priestesses take care of them.
The African Rock Python has been hunted for years for its beautiful skin to make handbags and other accessories. Large numbers of python skins have been exported from West Africa. In the 1980s, about 15,000 were exported to Italy and Germany. This caused their population to decline in some areas, and now its export must be licensed.
Jacksonville Zoo History:
Apparently, there was an African rock python in the Zoo’s animal collection during February 1966. That is the earliest known record of this species in our collection.