Southern African python (Python natelensis)

Kruger National Park | November 2019

We recently received our first summer rains. The wet conditions and high temperatures have brought about an abundance of reptile activity, and we have been fortunate to see the Southern African python on a few occasions this month.

Southern African pythons are versatile snakes that can be found in rocky areas, in trees and also in water. They are generally most active at dusk and also at night, but can also be seen basking in the sun. They are described as large bulky snakes, and can reach a maximum length of around 5.5 metres and 65 kg (143 lbs) in weight. Due to their size, they are not usually confused with other species. Their underbellies are creamy white in colour, featuring brown spots. The upper-side of the body can be described as being a red-brown colour with cream coloured blotches that are edged in black. The head often features a triangular shaped marking.

They are known to strike and bite readily, and even though they lack fangs, they have many recurved teeth that can deliver a painful bite and cause severe tissue damage. Pythons are ambush hunters and hunt by latching on with their teeth, and then constricting their prey. They have been known to feed on rodents, monkeys, small antelope species, birds and reptiles. Fortunately attacks on humans are extremely rare.

Females will choose a favourable location to lay eggs (usually abandoned termite mounds), and will remain there up to two weeks after the hatchlings emerge. The incubation period can last as long as two to three months, and she will only leave the nest site in order to drink or bask in the sun.