Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Fistful Of Slithers

My buddy, Stretch Moonman, gave me some images of pythons which hatched in the Reptile Park where he's the curator:

One of the Pythons in Stretch's care.

The Southern African Python is the largest snake in Southern Africa, averaging 3-4 m long. Previously known as the African Rock Python, it's called 'Ombome' by the Owambo people of Namibia.

Pythons are extremely valuable in controlling rodent populations but are indiscriminately killed by fearful, ignorant humans.

Pythons have been reported to kill people but this is very rare. Pythons can however, inflict painful and dangerous bite-wounds which may require medical attention.

I once kept a small python, Monty, for a while but released 'him' into the bush after he slithered into my shirt and left a row of bloody teeth marks on my back.

A clutch of eggs laid by one of the large females in the Reptile Park early this year.

Pythons usually lay between 30-60 eggs and are the only snake I know of which incubate their eggs and remain with the babies for two weeks or more after hatching.

The eggs, each slightly smaller than a tennis ball, hatched after 91 days.

Mama raises her head in a defensive posture, her body coiled around the 21 newly-hatched babes.

Awwwww ...

I visited Stretch earlier this year and photographed two of the babes which he had in his living quarters.

Stretch doesn't have to worry about break-ins and thefts - no would-be thief has the courage to enter his house because of his reputation for keeping all kinds of dangerous snakes.

One of the two babes in Stretch's house was the 'runt' of the litter (with the spot, or scar on it's forehead).

When I last spoke to him, he said that the poor creature had all sorts of health problems and that he thought it will not survive.

Stretch displays some of his 'babies' before taking them out into the bush and releasing them.

The harsh reality is that very few of them will survive to adulthood, most will be eaten by birds of prey and other predators.

I wonder what the collective noun is for a bunch of baby pythons ... a Medusa?

Johan Marais - Snakes Of Southern Africa.



  1. Love, love this post, I have a very soft spot for pythons. I had a 14 foot Indian Python as a pet many years ago in the UK. When we left the UK to go, to what was then Rhodesia, we gave 'Oscar' to the Bristol Zoo. I would love one of them around the place here to keep down the rat and mouse population, trouble is as it gets bigger it will want bigger prey! I think groups of snakes vary with the breed, but nest of snakes would be my first bet. Thanks for this Graham. Diane

  2. Even though I got the typical flinching reaction to the snake pictures, they are so interesting! The mama snake coiled around the babies is amazing. I wouldn't have guessed any snakes incubated and raised their babies. Plus, the eggs look like a pile of marshmallows toasted over a campfire or baked on top of yams. Not sure if anybody but Americans like marshmallows enough to notice the similarity to snake eggs!

  3. ... and thanks for your enthusiastic response Diane - I remember you saying once that you love snakes and other reptiles ...

    it seems you have quite a problem with rats and mice there ... perhaps a fierce cat would do the trick?

  4. Hehe Barbara - now that you mention it, they DO resemble marshmellows toasted ...

    ... yes, it's very interesting that the female incubates the eggs ... during this time she does not hunt but will bask in the sun and then carry the heat back to her eggs.

  5. Wow! Those are fantastic photos and some very interesting information about the python. Who would've thought they can be quite maternal? I sure didn't know. I like looking at snakes but don t want to get close, dangerous or not.

  6. Yeah Penny, if you're not 100% sure of a snake's identity, it's best to leave them alone ...

    ... I got zapped by a venomous critter once when I misidentified it.

  7. good info - I don't care much for snakes but I do know they control other pests. I don't understand the desire to make them pets.
    The mistreatment of snakes reminds me of the same problem with wolves or bats.

  8. Yeah lisleman, most people have a phobia about snakes, much of it based on false information or superstition ... I can't stand spiders ...

    ... once I picked up a chameleon and freaked a crowd of people out because they believed it was venomous

  9. I am scared of only one animal and it starts with the letter C.

    Snakes are rather common in our yard and people who visit our house will always advise us to do this and that to get rid of them but really we do not mind them. Of course we do not want the dangerous kinds in our house, it has happened once and it was they said, of the cobra kind. And then there was that python visit, and he ate our peacock.

    Your post is valuable. It is good to learn about the snakes up close and personal and this is the first time I see snakes eggs. They are very much like turtle eggs. And I like meeting your friend Stretch. I wonder what kind of conversations you two make.

  10. Hehe Fazlisa - I know which 'C' animal it is you speak of ...

    ... I remember the story of the python in your pond but I didn't know that it ate your peacock.

    Yeah, Stretch is a very interesting character and the only guy in Namibia who I regard as a friend.

    Well, I'm out of here for I few days - I'm packing for a camping trip to the Fish River Canyon ...

  11. Neighbours have cats which prowl around, but as Nigel is allergic to cats, best they stay with the neighbours. I have seen the odd snake in the garden but not that many. There are so many old barns around here that rats, mice and bats seem to thrive. We have not got such a big problem in the house but the odd mouse does pop up! Diane

  12. Yes Graham, I did not mention it because at the time my elder son was traveling in Amsterdam and I didn't want him to read it on the blog. How exciting! I camped a lot during my Scout years.

  13. Imagine the bunch of babies on the head. Medusa! I'll just freeze up handling snakes and forget to breathe! Great pictures.

  14. Great to have some more of your posts to read,and the photo of the camp fire on your last one was great! I hope you have a good trip to the Fish River Canyon - that is another must-see-place on my life's "to do" list (I dislike the term "bucket list" - it is soooo overused now!)
    I had a really great view of a python in the wild last November - we eyeballed each other for at least 5 minutes before another car scared him off - and wow! it moved so quickly for such a large creature..... vanished in a flick, a whip and a puff of dust.....

  15. Lovely post Graham. The picture of a handful of babies is fantastic - reminds me of "Raiders of the lost ark". I have pythons on my farm but have only seen the tell tale signs - they have not come visiting yet. I say yet because I am soon getting chickens - then I think they will be paying me a few visits :)

  16. That is a beautiful world you live in. The colours in the sand dunes are magnificent.

    Love the baby pythons. You are correct, there is so much ignorance about snakes and spiders too which is a pity. I see you quote Johan as the source of your information, do you have his books?

    I have just spend a few days with Andrea (Sidecar)and he gave me the link to your blog.

  17. It's a pity about Nigel's allergy Diane - looks like you'll have to settle for the old-fashioned mousetrap ... mind your fingers though ... :)

  18. Hehe Fazlisa - I learned a valuable lesson from the Girl Guides ... it was when I was trying to be casually macho in front of a group of them that I got zapped by a snake ...

  19. Hehe Keats ... yes, well if you had a bunch of snakes on your head you wouldn't have to worry about clearing a path through a crowd of people ...

  20. Thanks Coral - what a great experience you seem to have had with the Python ... it's always a great feeling to have an unexpected encounter with a wild animal (and survive) ... :) ... they do move fast hey, the ones that surprise me with their speed are the Puffys.

  21. hello Graham, you're back! I was a full blown Scout, not a Girl Guide selling brownies :)

  22. Thanks Jackie - yeah, with chickens they'll certainly pay you a visit ... but I imagine that the Pythons will be the least of your worries, what with Cobras and other venomous critters around ...

  23. Thanks for your visit and comment Joan (and thanks to Andrea too) ...

    ... I only have the one reference book of Johan Marais ... do you know him personally?

    yes, Namibia has stunning scenery and plenty of photo ops.

  24. Yes I do know him as he has helped me a lot with a project I am working on for the identification of species. He lives close by and is a wonderful person. If you ever need help in anyway, you can always contact him through his webside. I recently got his new book and did a post on it with an interview. If you are interested in reading more here is the link.

    Have a great day!!

  25. I have tried over the years to overcome my fear of no avail. I spent my early childhood in summer camps. The outhouse being to far to for my midnight bathroom run, I would pee outside the cabin ,. It wasn't unusual for a snake to slither past foot...I was terrified!
    I wonder about the other reptilians that can be found in the desert of Namibia. Hint hint..another blog post assignment for you ☺

  26. Thanks Joan - I've bookmarked Johan's website for future reference.

  27. Hehe Monica - ok - I'll search my pics for another reptile post.

    I know of one woman here who was nailed by a Zebra Cobra (on her butt) when she visited the farm outhouse ... she suffered for many years after.

    Most people have a fear of snakes but once you handle a 'friendly' non-venomous snake you'll feel a lot more comfortable ...I think the key is knowing which snakes are dangerous ...