The Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus) is Asia’s largest and heaviest snake, and ties with the South American anaconda as the longest snake—up to 10 metres in length! It is also very prolific, laying up to 124 eggs per clutch.
This python was spotted in the Fourth Residential College forest, and was very sluggish—most probably sated after a filling meal!
It has large head scales, called shields, with the ones nearest to its mouth containing pits that lead to heat-sensitive nerves that sense live prey. The body scales are smooth, with the underside scales narrow. The anal shield is flanked by spurs, which are remnants of hind legs.
It has a stout body, which along with its head, is yellowish-tan in colour, with a network of black lines along the top of its body and down to the sides where the lines widen to surround white patches. This undoubtedly handsome snake is iridescent in sunlight.
The Reticulated Python prefers habitats in humid forests, but is also at home in orchards, agricultural lands and human habitation. It is most comfortable on the ground, but is adept at climbing trees. It is a powerful constrictor and feeds on almost any mammal, as large as deer and on rare occasions, humans.
The slight bulge in the python's abdomen, coupled with its sluggish behaviour, indicates that we caught it after its meal.
This doesn’t mean that you should kill every python you see, though. Use non-toxic means of deterring them from houses and gardens, such as scattering sulphur which repels them. If you stumble across one, call for the help of professionals such as the Fire Department, to help you move it to a safer place.
Occasionally, pythons are spotted in UM, indicating that the secondary forest on campus grounds can support a thriving ecosystem.
Finally, after several nudges, the young Reticulated Python slithered off.
All photographs by Benjamin Ong
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