Gentle giant – the largest animal in Hong Kong (in length) which I feel easier catching than many smaller snakes. (Not saying they won’t bite though.)
Burmese python (Python bivittatus) is the largest snake in Hong Kong and the second-largest (in weight) in the world after Green anaconda (Eunectes murinus). Together with Reticulated python (Malayopython reticulatus), the longest snake in the world, African rock python (Python sebae), and Indian python (Python molurus), these are the 5 largest species of snakes in the world. But the size ranking of these giant snakes should not be considered definitive. There is considerable variation in the maximum reported size of these species, and most measurements are not truly verifiable.
Wild pythons in Hong Kong used to be much bigger back in the days. Full-grown’s recently found are usually 3-4 m. The largest record is 5.74 m (18’10”). But length is not what makes the Burmese python a true giant. Weight is. The heaviest record is 182.8 kg (403 lb). Some species can grow longer but probably only 1 species can grow heavier – the Anaconda.
Surprisingly, such an iconic snake did not get to become a full species until 2009. The Burmese python was considered just a subspecies of the Indian python (Python molurus).
Its diet in Hong Kong consists of birds, rodents, cats, dogs, monkeys, barking deers, calves, goats, and wild boars. Back in the days, before 2006, when keeping backyard poultry was still allowed chicken was the python’s favorite item on the menu.
Due to their large mass and the amount of self-confidence, when we encounter them chances are they can be moving very slowly. Roadkills happen often. I have had them crossing the road slowly (or barely moving) right in front when driving in suburbs or rural areas. I had to block the road with my car until they finished crossing. Even had to move those not willing to move to the roadside.
They are locally protected and, what is more important, they contribute to ecosystem services by controlling the overpopulation of rodents and boars as an apex predator of Hong Kong. Young Burmese pythons can be preyed on by birds and king cobras. Adults have no natural predators.
Mainly nocturnal, but they are often found hanging out during the day in the warmer days in Hong Kong. They travel a lot – have a large home range. It is recorded that there’s a radio-tracked adult female which covered an area of more than 12 hectares within 24 hours on Lantau Island.
In Hong Kong, it is widely distributed including all major islands. Outside Hong Kong, despite the name suggests, its distribution is not limited to Myanmar but throughout southern and Southeast Asia, including India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and southern China in Fujian, Jiangxi, Guangdong, Hainan, Guangxi, and Yunnan.
This species has also become an invasive species in the U.S. where a large number of pythons can now be found in the Florida Everglades.
See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.
緬甸蟒, 蟒蛇, 黑蛇蟒, 蚺蛇, 南蛇, 琴蛇