Overview

“Where I live”

Blood pythons are native to southeast Asia where they inhabit rainforest, marshes, swamps, riverbanks and streams.

Blood pythons are one of many species featured in The Maryland Zoo’s Animal Embassy collection. Animal Ambassadors are introduced to audiences in education programs on and off grounds.

“How I live there”

Blood pythons are non-venomous constrictors that spend much of their time partially submerged in water, sitting motionless, waiting for unsuspecting prey to cross their paths. They tend to be most active at night and are likely to be spotted at the edges of slow-moving rivers or streams. They feed on rodents and birds. They immobilize prey with their teeth and then coil around the animal, squeezing it to the point of suffocation. Blood pythons unhinge their jaws in order to swallow prey whole, using rhythmic contractions to pull prey down the throat and into the stomach.

“Making my mark”

Blood pythons are so named because of their reddish-rust coloration. They molt several times per year and appear more brightly colored just after shedding.

“What eats me”

Birds of prey, other snakes, and crocodiles may feed on young blood pythons but are less likely to go after an adult snake. Humans are the main predator of adult blood pythons.

Raising Young

About 3 months after mating, females lay clutches of 10-15 eggs on average and remain with them until they hatch, which is unusual for snakes. Females wrap around their eggs and will “shiver” to keep them warm if the surrounding temperature drops low enough. This requires a great deal of energy from females, though, and can cause them to lose up to half their body weight during the nearly 3-month incubation period. Once the eggs hatch, the baby pythons are on their own. They are approximately 12 to 18 inches long at hatching and are tan with black markings.

Conservation

Blood pythons are listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN, the world’s leading conservation organization. The species is vulnerable to over-collection for the pet trade and tens of thousands are killed each year for their skins. However, the overall population is thought to be on the rise because in parts of southeast Asia, blood pythons are successfully establishing themselves on palm oil plantations where rodent prey is plentiful. The chopping down of rainforest to create palm oil plantations, while beneficial for blood pythons, is extremely detrimental to many other wildlife species such as orangutans and Asian elephants.

Taxonomy

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Reptila
  • Genera: Python
  • Species: brongersmai

What is an Animal Ambassador?

The Maryland Zoo refers to its special collection of education program animals as “Animal Ambassadors.” The Zoo currently cares for more than 60 Animal Ambassadors, representing more than 40 species, both native and exotic. These animals are managed separately from the rest of the Zoo’s collection and cannot be seen on exhibit at the Zoo. However, many can be seen up close and personal on a rotating basis at Creature Encounters, the Zoo’s outdoor education center; at camp and school programs at the Zoo; as featured participants in community-based Outreach programs; and at special events on and off Zoo grounds.

Animal Ambassadors spend countless hours working with their human handlers, developing bonds of trust and communication that will allow them to appear in front of audiences large and small. They are not show animals. They behave naturally, focusing audiences’ attention on their natural behaviors and adaptations and giving living, breathing meaning to concepts and topics that students may be studying.

Animal Ambassadors travel all over the state of Maryland and beyond, and many also make local and national media appearances, educating about wildlife while representing the Zoo and its commitments to animal welfare and conservation.

What is The Animal Embassy?

The Animal Embassy at The Maryland Zoo is an off-exhibit area that is not open to the public. It is where the Zoo’s “Animal Ambassadors,” or education program animals, live. The Embassy is home to more than 60 individual animals representing more than 40 different species. It is staffed by its own dedicated group of keepers and volunteers and has both indoor and outdoor living space for the animals.