The Burmese Python by Lorcan Maule
Members of Form IV are currently studying reptiles, specifically snakes. They recently had to write a piece on a snake of their choice. Here is an essay by Lorcan Maule on the Burmese Python.
The Burmese Python is the 6th largest snake in the world, it is native to tropical areas of southern and south east Asia. They are found near water and they are semi aquatic, but can also be found in trees. They are normally 3.7 meters long, but some have been found to be up to 5.8 meters long. They are light coloured snakes with many brown blotches boarded in black down the back of the snake. The python is an excellent swimmer and needs a permanent source of water but it is normally found in grasslands, swamps, woodlands, jungles, and river valleys. They are excellent climbers and their tail helps them climb as it is prehensile.
Like all snakes, Burmese Pythons are carnivorous. Their diet consists primarily of appropriately-sized birds and mammals. The snake uses its sharp teeth to seize its prey, then wraps its body around the prey, killing the prey by constriction. They are often found near human habitation due to the presence of rats, mice and other vermin as a food source. Large pythons are know to eat pigs and goats.
Breeding of Burmese Pythons in the Americas has led to some serious problems. People have been known to release their pets into the wild rather than have them re-homed. This has been a problem in Florida, along with possible zoo and household escapees from Hurricane Andrew, where a large number of pythons have made their way to the Everglades. Over 1330 have been captured in the Everglades where they are competing with alligators as the dominant predator. Since they have been known to eat endangered birds and alligators, these snakes present a new danger to an already fragile ecosystem.
They are also excellent swimmers, being able to stay underneath for up to half an hour. Burmese Pythons spend the majority of their time hidden in the underbrush. Burmese Pythons breed in the early spring, with females laying clutches which average 12–36 eggs in March or April. She will remain with the eggs until they hatch, wrapping around them and twitching her muscles in such a way as to raise the ambient temperature around the eggs by several degrees. Once the hatchlings use their egg tooth to cut their way out of their eggs, there is no further maternal care. The newly hatched will often remain inside their egg until they are ready to complete their first shedding of skin.