African Rock Python Fact File

Python sebae

Credit: Ngangorica, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Weight

30-55kg

(66-121lbs)

Length

3.5-7.6m

(11.5-24.5ft)

Lifespan

Wild 30 years

Captive 30 years

Diet

Carnivore

Birds, Mammals

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

The African rock python is found across much of Central Africa in forest, savanna and wetland habitats.

These snakes are non-venomous and use their strong body to constrict prey. They will then swallow it whole. Adults have been recorded to eat prey as large as a warthog.

Females will deposit their eggs in a pile and then wrap around them. Unlike most snakes which do this to provide warmth in this species it appears to be mostly for defense.

They are threatened across their range by collection for the pet and leather trades.

Read on to learn more about these radical reptiles.

Appearance

What does the African rock python look like?

Across the body of the African rock python they have scales which are patterned with blotches of olive, chestnut, brown and yellow.


Their head is triangular in shape. The eye features a vertical pupil.


An average African rock python will measure between 3.5 and 7.5m (11.5-24.5ft) long. One exceptionally large individual was recorded that was nearly 10m (32.75ft) long. They have an average weight between 30 and 55kg (66-121lbs).


They are among the largest snake species in Africa.

Diet

What does the African rock python eat?


African rock pythons are carnivores. They feed on a range of mammals, birds and reptiles with most feeding on small animals such as rodents and birds. Larger individuals are able to feed on animals such as crocodiles and antelopes.

Due to their flexible jaw these animals are able to consume prey which is wider than the mouth. As they feed on large prey items they may go long periods between meals.

These animals are non-venomous and will instead wrap around the prey to constrict it and subdue it.

African Rock Python (Python sebae)

Credit: Public Domain

Range

Where can you find the African rock python?

African rock pythons are found across Central Africa. Here they can be found in the following countries – Benin; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Côte d’Ivoire; Equatorial Guinea; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Gabon; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Kenya; Liberia; Mali; Mauritania; Niger; Nigeria; Rwanda; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Somalia; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo and Uganda.

Records of introduced individuals have been made in the state of Florida in the US.

In the south of their range the species will overlap with the southern African python (Python natalensis). These two have been known to create hybrids.

Habitat

What kind of environment does the African rock python live in?

These animals can be found in forest, savanna and wetland habitats.

They are often found near water.

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Reproduction

How does the African rock python produce its young?

Breeding takes place from November to March and during this period both the male and female will cease eating.


As shown below the female will deposit her eggs in a large pile. She seeks out a tree hollow, burrow or termite mound where she will give birth.


Each clutch may include up to 100 eggs though 20 to 50 is more common. She will wrap around the pile to protect them but unlike other snakes does not shiver to produce heat for them. The eggs are incubated for two to three months.


Young are independent as soon as they emerge from their eggs.


These animals grow quickly and juveniles can reach 1.4m (4.6ft) long within the first year of life.


Sexual maturity is reached between three and five years old.

Behavior

What does the African rock python do with its day?

These animals are active at night. This is when most of their prey is active allowing them to find it easily. They may emerge during the day to bask in the sun which assists with thermoregulating.

Outside of the breeding season these snakes are considered to be solitary.

They have the ability to climb and are also able to swim. Despite this they are most commonly seen on the ground.

African Rock Python (Python sebae)

Credit: Public Domain

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the African rock python?

Natural predators of the African rock python include hyenas and wild dogs. These animals primarily target them during the time they are digesting their food.

Populations of the African rock python are decreasing.

These animals have been declining due to collection to supply the pet trade. This has now reached levels which are considered unsustainable.

They are also subject to collection to supply the bushmeat trade and for use in traditional medicine. Some are also collected for use in the leather trade. Large animals are targeted which means they are becoming rarer within the population.

Some are also suffering through deforestation due to agriculture and urban development.

Quick facts

The Southern African rock python (Python natalensis) was previously considered as a subspecies of the African rock python. They have recently been elevated to full species status.

They may also be known as the Central African python or African python.

African Rock Python (Python sebae)

Credit: Tigerpython, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2012. The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of the world. London: Southwater.

Africa Wild Trails. 2021. Danger Zone: The African Rock Python – Africa Wild Trails. [online] Available at: <https://africawildtrails.com/danger-zone-the-african-rock-python/> [Accessed 4 December 2021].

Alexander, G.J., Tolley, K.A., Penner, J., Luiselli, L., Jallow, M., Segniagbeto, G., Niagate, B., Howell, K., Beraduccii, J., Msuya, C.A. & Ngalason, W. 2021. Python sebaeThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2021: e.T13300572A13300582. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2021-2.RLTS.T13300572A13300582.en. Downloaded on 04 December 2021.

Sherman, P. 2006. “Python sebae” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 04, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Python_sebae/

Krugerpark.co.za. 2021. African Rock Python – Reptiles and Snakes – Africa. [online] Available at: <https://www.krugerpark.co.za/africa_african_rock_python.html> [Accessed 5 December 2021].

Oregon Zoo. 2021. African rock python. [online] Available at: <https://www.oregonzoo.org/discover/animals/african-rock-python> [Accessed 5 December 2021].

Florida Museum. 2021. African Rock Python. [online] Available at: <https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/florida-snake-id/snake/african-rock-python/> [Accessed 5 December 2021].

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