Oenpelli Python Fact File

Nyctophilopython oenpelliensis


Insufficient Data





Wild - 20 years

Captive - 20 years



Small Mammals

conservation status


Lest Concern

The World's Rarest Snake!

The oenpelli python is often described as Australia's rarest snake having only been first described for modern science in 1977. They are found solely in a small area of escarpment in Australia's Northern Territory.

As a carnivore they spend their day laying in wait for small mammals to run past them.

Females produce some of the largest eggs of any similar species.

This species is incredibly rare mainly due to their small range and is being affected by increases in fire frequency and collection for the illegal wildlife trade.


What does an Oenpelli Python look like?

Oenpelli pythons are long and thin snakes which are covered by scales. These are coloured olive brown with darkened blotches across the body. In the sun their scales have an iridescent shine to them. At the night the coloration of the snake changes and they take on a silver sheen. On the underside of their body the scales are cream in colour.

An average individual will measure 2.5m (8.2m) long though some extremely large individuals have been recorded at up to 5m (16.4ft) long. They are the longest species of python found in the Northern Territory.


How does the Oenpelli Python survive in its habitat?

The strong muscles of the oenpelli python help them both with climbing trees and to subdue their prey before it is eaten.


What does an Oenpelli Python eat?

Oenpelli pythons are carnivores which will feed on a range of small animals. Their diet includes rock rats, possums and other small mammals. This snake does not have a venom and instead must squeeze prey to crush it.

These animals are ambush predators and will spend their time waiting until a prey animal approaches and they then quickly strike at it.


Where do you the find the Oenpelli Python?

Australia is the native home of the oenpelli python. They are found exclusively in an area of Arnhem land in the Northern Territory.


Where can an Oenpelli Python survive?

This species is a habitat specialist being found in monsoon forest within sandstone escarpments. Seasonally they may venture in to areas of tropical woodland.

Often they are seen sheltering in caves and crevices.

Snake News Stories

Oenpelli Python (Simalia oenpelliensis)


How does an Oenpelli Python produce its young?

Most observations of their breeding are taken from captivity. They will mate in July resulting in eggs being laid in November.

Each clutch of eggs will include between 5 and 9 eggs. Notably the eggs of this species are considered extremely large.


What does the Oenpelli Python do during its day?

This species is considered nocturnal. During the day they will shelter in a tree or cave.

They are adept climbers and are regularly seen climbing both in trees and along rocks.

Predators and Threats

What stops the Oenpelli Python from surviving and thriving?

This species is considered rare and is known from only a few subpopulations.

The largest threat to their survival is habitat degradation primarily due to increases in fire intensity.

Within their habitat there has been significant declines in native mammal populations leading to a large decline in prey availability.

Small numbers are taken by local people as food.

In the early 2010s a number of these pythons were brought in to captivity as part of a breeding effort. These are collected by traditional land owners and they receive a royalty on any which are sold. Each captive python bred as part of this program is registered meaning any legal individuals can be tracked and illegally collected specimens easily found. Prior to this program the species was a valuable target for the illegal wildlife trade.

Quick facts

This species may also be known as the Oenpelli rock python. Some refer to them by the Aboriginal name for the species, 'nawaran'.

Oenpelli pythons are one of the species which are suggested to have inspired the rainbow serpent in tradition Aboriginal culture.

They were not described for modern science until 1977.

In the local Kunwinjku language spoken in Oenpelli they are known as nawaran.


Swanson, S. and Parish, S., 2011. Field Guide To Australian Reptiles. 2nd ed. New South Wales: Pascal Press.

Hancock, D., 2022. Saving the Oenpelli python - Australian Geographic. [online] Australian Geographic. Available at: <https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2014/07/oenpelli-python/> [Accessed 31 March 2022].

Australia, A., 2022. Species: Simalia oenpelliensis (Oenpelli Rock Python). [online] Bie.ala.org.au. Available at: <https://bie.ala.org.au/species/urn:lsid:biodiversity.org.au:afd.taxon:f5b75358-7204-40f9-9800-6f46c47ca546> [Accessed 31 March 2022].

Hancock, D., 2022. Saving the Oenpelli python - Australian Geographic. [online] Australian Geographic. Available at: <https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2014/07/oenpelli-python/> [Accessed 31 March 2022].

2022. Threatened species of the Northern Territory Oenpelli python. [ebook] Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security, pp.1-2. Available at: <https://nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/206459/oenpelli-python.pdf> [Accessed 31 March 2022].

Woinarski, J., Gillespie, G., Greenlees, M., McDonald, P. & Fenner, A. 2017. Simalia oenpelliensisThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T42494211A42494251. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T42494211A42494251.en. Accessed on 31 March 2022.

Explore the nocturnal reptile house at Crocosaurus Cove (2019) Croc Cove. Available at: https://www.crocosauruscove.com/explore-the-nocturnal-house/ (Accessed: March 16, 2023).

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