Burmese Python (Python molurus bivittatus) - Wiki
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[Photo] Python molurus, from http://www.museum.nantes.fr/pages/07-actioneducative/banque_herpeto.htm ?? Patrick JEAN / mus??um d'histoire naturelle de Nantes".
The Burmese Python (Python molurus bivittatus) is a very large python native to southern Asia, and common in the exotic pet trade. It is semi-arboreal, but heavy-bodied. A Burmese Python at Serpent Safari Park in Gurnee, Illinois, USA previously held  the record for heaviest living snake, with a weight of 182.76 kg (403 lb) at a length of 8.23 m (27 ft) as of 2005. Females are typically larger than males.
Geographic Range and Habitat
The Burmese python is found throughout southeast Asia including Myanmar (formerly called Burma, their namesake), Thailand, Vietnam, China, and Indonesia. Wild populations are considered to be "threatened" and are listed on Appendix II of CITES. All the giant pythons (including the Indian Python, the African Rock Python, and the Reticulated Python) have historically been slaughtered to supply the world leather market, as well as for folk medicines, and captured for the pet trade. In more recent years extensive captive breeding of the Burmese Python has made the importation of wild caught specimens for the pet trade uncommon.
Burmese Pythons are light colored snakes with many dark brown blotches bordered in black down the back. Their perceived attractiveness of their skin pattern contributes to their popularity with both reptile keepers and the leather industry. The pattern is similar in color, but different in actual pattern to the African Rock Python (Python sebae), sometimes resulting in confusion of the two species outside of their natural habitats.
Burmese Pythons are diurnal rainforest dwellers. When younger they are equally at home on the ground and in trees, but as they gain girth they tend to restrict most of their movements to the ground. They are also excellent swimmers. Like all diurnal snakes, Burmese Pythons spend the majority of their time basking in the sun to moderate their body temperature, and to aid in digestion of meals.
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.
Like all snakes, Burmese Pythons are carnivorous. They will consume a wide variety of prey items, their diet consisting primarily of appropriately sized birds and mammals which they subdue via constriction. They are often found near human habitations due to the presence of rats and other vermin as a food source. However, their equal affinity for domesticated birds and mammals means that they are often treated as a pest. In captivity their diet consists primarily of commercially available, appropriately sized rats, and moving up to larger items such as rabbits and poultry as they grow. Exceptionally large pythons may even require larger food items, such as pigs or goats.
Burmese Pythons are often sold as pets, and are made popular by their attractive color and apparently easy-going nature. However, these animals have a rapid growth rate, and will often exceed 7 feet in length in a year if cared for and fed properly. By age 4, they will have reached their adult size, though they continue growing very slowly throughout their lives, which may exceed 20 years. While this species has a reputation for docility, they are very powerful animals, capable of inflicting severe bites or even killing a keeper by constriction. They also consume large amounts of food, and due to their size, require large, often custom-built, secure, enclosures, which can be very expensive. These snakes, like others, will attempt to hunt, and as pets this means that they will attempt to get out of their cages. Cage cleaning can be difficult, as the feces of the snake are large, and adult pythons can produce droppings large enough to require a shovel to pick up. While this species is gentle, tractable, and attractive, its sheer size and power make it an unsuitable choice for beginning snake keepers, who are all too often lured into buying one by unscrupulous pet shop owners and their relatively low market value. A secondary problem with feeding Burmese Pythons is that many owners believe if a snake acts hungry, that it should be fed. As Burmese Pythons are opportunistic feeders, they will typically eat almost any time food is offered, and often act hungry even when they have recently eaten. This often leads to overfeeding, and obesity related problems are common in captive Burmese Pythons.
The Burmese Python is frequently captive bred for color, pattern, and more recently size. The albino form of the Burmese Python is especially popular and is the most widely available morph. They are white with patterns in butterscotch yellow and burnt orange. There are also "Labyrinth" specimens, which have mazelike patterns, khaki colored "Green" Burmese pythons, and "Granite" Burmese pythons, which have many small angular spots. Breeders have recently begun working with an island lineage of Burmese Pythons. Early reports indicate that these "dwarf" Burmese retain the coloration and gentle nature of their mainland relatives, but do not grow much over 7 feet (2.1 meters) long. One of the sought-after of these variations is the leucistic Burmese. This particular variety is very rare, and has not been reproduced in captivity. This snake is entirely bright white with no pattern and black eyes.
Due to the difficulties of raising these as pets, some owners have released them into the wild. This has caused wide spread concern as they occupy a place at the top of the food chain. Over 230 (National Geographic - October 28th 05) have been captured in the Florida Everglades where they are competing with alligators as the dominant predator. In recent years this competition has resulted in what officials describe as a draw.
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