Reticulated Python: Python reticulatus

The reticulated python has a claim to being the longest snake in the world. While not as bulky as an anaconda they can reach a greater length. This is usually around 20 feet long for a large adult, but the longest specimen on record was slightly longer than 33 feet. Although relatively slender this great length can mean that the reticulated python may weigh up to 300 pounds. Reticulated pythons in the wild have a pattern of black diamonds and lines over a dark grey/beige background, with white patches along the flanks.. There are several colour variations in capture, some of which are quite dissimilar to the natural colouration. Almost all reticulated pythons have large orange eyes. They also have the heat detecting organs common to many snakes.

The reticulated python naturally occurs in south-east Asia and Indonesia. They live in tropical jungles, and frequently swim in the water. Like the anaconda they often strike out at their prey from the waters edge. Young reticulated pythons eat rodents and birds, but when fully grown they eat larger mammals as well. Reticulated pythons are not venemous, but they have long fangs and a powerful bite. They typically latch onto their prey with their fangs before swiftly throwing coils around it and killing it by constriction.

Although reticulated pythons do not seek out humans as a food source they can react very agressively when approached, and are quite capable of killing and eating an adult when fully grown. Although it would generally be considered foolish to keep such a large and powerful snake, thakfully some of the captive variations are more docile than the usual wild snake. The snake needs to be kept warm in captivity, and may live for up to 25 years.

The reticulated python is an egg layer, and may lay large clutches from December onward, with the mating having occured between September and then. The female incubates the eggs for nearly 3 months, during which time she is likely to be especially dangerous to man. It takes up to 5 years for the pythons to reach sexual maturity, at which point they have grown close to their maximum size.

In December 2003, in a little village on the Indonesian island of Java, villagers reported the finding of a Reticulated Python that measured 14.85 meters, weighed 447 kilos and had a girth of 85 centimetres! Catching the giant was no mean feet in itself. It took 65 grown men and the blessing of a local tribal medicine man (pythons are regarded as deities by the local tribes) to subdue the huge snake.

According to the Guinness book of records, the longest snake captured so far was "merely" 9.75 meters (this poor creature was shot in 1912 on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, and was almost surely also a Reticulated Python). The heaviest snake known was a Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus), weighing 182 kilos and living in a terrarium in the American city of Gurnee. Since this animal would be one and a half times the length and more than two times the weight, it was quite a shocking discovery!

The brute eats about 3 to 4 fierce brown dogs a month (see exothermic). It's very picky about its food, and will for instance not eat dogs of any other colour. A spokesman for the zoo declared that when dealing with such a unique animal they didnt mind its peculiar dietary habits.

Hundreds of Indonesians had gone to visit their (by now famous) reptilian giant each day, when a photographer who works for Reuters came by. After taking a few photos he measured the huge animal, but unfortunately didn’t get any further than 6.5 meters. When questioned, the zookeeper stated he didn't understand how the animal had shrunk...

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