LARGE SNAKES OF THE RAINFOREST

SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA


The Anaconda. Photo:Cesar Barrio

The Anaconda. Photo:Cesar Barrio

ASIA



Burmese Python. Photo:Wikimedia Commons

Burmese Python. Photo:Wikimedia Commons

AFRICA



African Python Constricts An Antelope.Photo:Timo Westermann

African Python Constricts An Antelope.Photo:Timo Westermann


Rain Forest Predators: Big Snakes



In the contest over which is the world’s longest snake, South America’s green anaconda (Eunectes murinus) and the two largest pythons of Africa and Asia are neck-and-neck-and-neck. All three species generally grow to around 20 feet (9 meters) in length, with some exceptional specimens reportedly reaching 30 or more feet. However, the green anaconda is thicker and heavier than any python, and therefore qualifies as the world’s largest snake. It’s range is confined to the Amazon basin, where it lives in and around rivers, preferring to ambush it’s prey in the water before crushing it in its powerful coils and swallowing it whole. And what prey does it tend to choose? Almost anything it can grab with its backward-pointing teeth and then wrap itself around, from wild pigs and large rodents such as the capybara to birds and even caimans. In South and Central American rainforests beyond the green anaconda’s range, boa constrictors and a couple of other anaconda subspecies, such as the yellow anaconda take over the big snake’s high position on the food chain. None of these other snakes approaches the green anaconda in size. Watch a video of a green anaconda hunting.

A number of python species and subspecies range throughout Asia and Africa, with the largest Asian species being the Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus). Like the anaconda, it grows to around 20 feet in length and seizes its prey with backward-pointing teeth before wrapping it in its coils and crushing it to death. The Burmese python likes to be near water, and it ranges throughout Southeast Asia and Indonesia. Thousands of Burmese pythons now live in the Florida Everglades after having escaped captivity. These snakes pose a threat to wildlife and domestic animals, and the state is taking steps to eliminate them. Read more about these invasive snakes here.

The African rock python occupies the position of top serpentine predator in and around the rain forests of Africa. This snake also grows to 20 or more feet and looks very much like a Burmese python, although the two apparently are not closely related. When full grown, it’s menu includes antelopes, wart hogs, crocodiles and just about anything else it can catch, including the occasional human. In early 2009, a Kenyan man named Ben Nayaumbe was reportedly seized and dragged up a tree by a large rock python, which attempted to swallow him. Nayaumbe escaped only after using his cell phone to call for help.

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