The African Rock Python is Africa’s largest snake often reaching a length of 4 meters and can weigh up to 55kg. These snakes have a heavy build. They have blotchy brown, olive, chestnut and yellow body markings that fade to white under their bellies. They have distinctive markings on their heads, which is triangular, with a dark brown spear-head which is outlined in buffy yellow. Under their eyes is once again a triangular marking. They are covered in small smooth scales, with the scales around the lips being heat sensitive and used to detect prey, even in the dark. In captivity, African Rock Pythons can live up to 12 years.
Males are smaller than females. African Rock Pythons become dormant in the dry season. Although the African Rock Python makes its habitat in most any area, bush or arid, it does stay close to a water source.
African Rock Pythons, like all Pythons, are non-venomous and kill their prey by constriction. The python grabs its prey and then coils its body around it, and every time the prey exhales the snake tightens it grip. It preys on large rodents, monkeys, warthog, antelope and even crocodiles. In 2017 news was made when an African Rock Python was filmed while it was eating an adult male spotted hyena that weighed about 70kg.
They lay between 20 – 100 hard-shelled eggs but unlike most snakes, the female protects her eggs by curling herself around them. When the eggs hatch she once again protects her hatchlings for up to two weeks.
Snakes are feared and killed by most people, and so the African Rock Python is feared and killed, but has only on very rare occasions killed a human. Although the African Rock Python is not endangered, it is often hunted for their leather.
Even though the African Rock Python is not venomous, it is to be considered dangerous. These snakes have incredibly strong jaws and are generally aggressive. African Rock Pythons are ambush predators and they strike quickly and unexpectedly. Contrary to popular belief, the victim does not die from being crushed or even asphyxiated, cardiac arrest is the way the victim dies. This snake is also fearless and will take on predators that are much larger then themselves. Like all snakes, African Rock Pythons swallow their prey whole head first. The African Rock Python’s got very stretchy ligaments that attach their upper and lower jaws which enable it to swallow prey that is much larger than itself. Once the prey has been swallowed the food is very slowly digested with the aid of exceptionally strong stomach acids. While digesting their food, they are inactive and will not attack again till it is necessary to feed again.