Burmese Python

Python molurus bivittatus

The Burmese python, one of the world’s largest snakes, is native to the rainforests of Southeast Asia. Although occasionally seen in trees, these snakes are semi-aquatic and are usually found near water. They are excellent swimmers and need access to a permanent water source. Like all snakes, Burmese pythons are carnivorous, eating mostly birds and mammals. They grow rapidly and when full grown reach 15 to 20 feet in length and weigh up to 200 pounds. They often live 20 years or more in captivity.

Did You Know?

The Burmese Python is one of the world’s largest snakes.

Sustainability

Does the harvest for wildlife trade or captive breeding of this species harm wild populations?

Some Cause for Concern

Wild populations of Burmese pythons are threatened in much of their native range. They are killed for the world leather market, for folk medicines, and for food (particularly in China). These pythons have also been captured for the pet trade. More recently, increased captive breeding has made the importation of wild-caught Burmese pythons much less common.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before obtaining any non-traditional pet, check that it is legal to own one in your state of residence and check for permitting requirements. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally imported or wild-caught animal. Always keep your pet inside a safe and secure enclosure. Never release a pet into the wild.

Invasion Threat

Does the release or escape of this species into the wild harm the environment and/or economy?

Significant Cause for Concern

Pythons, like boas, are sometimes released into the wild by owners who discover that it is inconvenient to keep such a large animal. Burmese pythons have become well established in southern Florida, especially in the Everglades, and they are expanding their range northward. These snakes are large enough to eat almost any species of bird or mammal in the U.S. Animals ranging in size from house wrens to white-tailed deer have been removed from the stomachs of pythons captured in Florida, and they are known to eat several endangered species. Large pythons are also capable of killing humans, even full-grown adults.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

The Burmese python is not a recommended pet.

Ease of Care

Does harvest, captive breeding, transport, or being kept as a pet harm individual animals?

Significant Cause for Concern

Ease of care of many non-traditional pets depends on the individual owner’s years of experience and knowledge caring for a particular species.

Due to their potential large size and risk of injury, Burmese pythons are difficult to maintain in captivity. Burmese pythons are typically purchased as pets when relatively young and small. As they grow larger, some are released into the wild by owners who can no longer care for them. Released pythons may starve, get hit by cars, or suffer other inhumane fates. Unwanted pythons are sometimes brought to zoos, veterinarians, and animal shelters, but these facilities often lack the space for long-term care.

Burmese pythons are opportunistic feeders that will eat almost any time food is offered, even if they have recently eaten. This often leads to overfeeding, and obesity-related problems are common in captive pythons.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

The Burmese python is not a recommended pet.

Health Threat

Does this animal pose a health risk to native wildlife, humans, livestock and agriculture?

Significant Cause for Concern

Burmese pythons are a distinct threat to domestic animals, pets, and even humans. A 10-foot long python can easily kill a child and a 15-foot long snake can overpower and kill a human adult. These animals have been implicated in numerous human deaths in the U.S. It is not advisable to handle a large snake alone.

Burmese pythons can carry Salmonella. If ingested by humans, Salmonella can cause vomiting and diarrhea; these symptoms are usually mild in healthy adults but can be fatal to infants and young children, or anyone with a compromised immune system. It is important to wash hands before and after handling an animal. Salmonella can be transmitted from exotic pets to any member of a household, even those who do not handle the pet directly.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

The Burmese python is not a recommended pet. However, when purchasing any non-traditional pet ask the seller if the animal has been checked by a veterinarian and obtain a list of any medical treatments the animal has received. Reptiles often do not show signs of illness when harboring Salmonella. Always wash your hands after handling a reptile.

EcoHealth Alliance works at the intersection of ecosystem, animal and human health through local conservation programs and develops global health solutions to emerging diseases.
More about EcoHealth Alliance