Rock Python





Range: Africa, south of the Sahara, generally eastern portions of Africa.

Habitat: Savannahs, Grasslands.  Human Farming areas.

Natural Diet: Mammals & birds, often credited with eating very large meals such as small antelope.

Diet at RainForest: Pre-killed rodents

Size: Females 16-18 feet, 120-150 Pounds--Males 12-14 feet 85-100 Pounds.

Keeper Notes: Africa's largest snake.  The African Rock Python has been recorded at up to 23' feet in length. 

Noted for an aggressive disposition, the African Rock Python will frequently defend its burrow with extreme vigor.  

This species will often used the previously excavated burrows of large mammals such as the African Crested Porcupine.  The day time heat of the African Savannah can be quite extreme resulting in many species seeking shelter from the sun and high temperatures. 

The young of this species may number well into the dozens as a single large female may lay as many as 50 eggs.  Each hatchling begins to feed shortly after their first week of life.  Small rodents are a large part of the diet of newly hatched pythons.   The small pythons themselves feed many of the medium sized predators on the African plains, this includes large predatory birds as well as smaller cat species such as the Serval.

Constrictor Feeding Behavior: All Pythons are constrictors.  Snakes that hunt using constriction as a means of subduing prey will very quickly grab their prey with their teeth using a very fast strike. The constrictor will quickly wrap coils of their bodies around the prey and squeeze or constrict the prey item.  This process does not actually crush the prey and break its bones as is widely reported in the media.  Instead, they squeeze tightly so that the prey animal canít breath and it suffocates, this process usually requires about 3-4 minutes for the prey animal to be killed.

Once the snake is certain the prey item is dead they then begin to search for the animals head, virtually all prey animals are consumed head first.  This process allows the snake to literally "fold" the arms and legs of the prey animal back as the creature is swallowed.  Contrary to popular belief a snake does not "unhinge" it's jaws, the jaws in fact are not actually attached in a mechanical way.  Long tendons and muscles connect the upper and lower jaws.  The lower jaw is actually made up of two separate bones to further enhance the animals ability to manipulate large prey items.

Once the snake has the animal past it's jaws a series rhythmic muscular contractions then pull the prey down the snakeís throat and into its stomach.   A very large prey item can be observed in the snakes stomach as a large bulge.  Contrary to popular belief the large prey item is not digested by slowing moving down the length of the snake. 

Once the prey animal reaches the stomach, usually about 20 minutes for a very large item, the food item is stationary in the snakes stomach as it is gradually digested.    The size of the meal can have an impact on the duration of the digestion, but external factors such as ambient air temperature play a larger roll.  The snake must be careful not to eat when temperatures are too cool, the meal will quite literally decompose faster than the snake can digest it, causing a gaseous bloating in the snake that can result in death.  Ideal air temperatures allow the snake to digest the meal prior to the food item decomposing!  Snakes often will regurgitate a meal when the conditions do not allow it to properly digest the meal, this can include both temperatures that are too high and too low!


Status in Wild: Declining due primarily to over collection for the skin trade as well as human consumption.  Farmers fear the African Rock Python as a predator capable of eating livestock, particularly goats.  The reality is that the Rock Python undoubtedly kills more rodents and actually benefits the farmers of Africa, but this message is slow to get to the individuals responsible for killing so many of these important predators.  Loss of habitat is beginning to play a larger roll in the continuing decline in the wild populations of the African Rock Python. 


This species is not currently on exhibit at RainForest




RainForest Adventures zoo, Smoky Mountains, Tennessee near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge TN