This python is a Borneo bateater.
What? You made that up!
No. That’s the trade name for a hybrid between the very common Burmese python and the reticulated python. It is a pretty good trade name.
The discovery of a feral population of African rock pythons in South Florida has caused some concerns among the conservation community. Florida is home to a well-established population of Burmese pythons, and it is feared that they could hybridize with the African rock pythons and make a “super snake.”
Of course, African rock pythons aren’t that common here. However, they can handle a more varied climate than the Burmese python can. The Burmese python is a subspecies of the Indian or Asian rock python. The other subspecies is the nominate Indian python subspecies, and the two subspecies are truly separated. Burmese pythons need more humid climates, while Indian pythons prefer more arid conditions. (To make things less confusing, this blog will call the Indian python the subspecies found in the arid regions of the Subcontinent, even though both subspecies are often called Indian pythons.)
African rock pythons have an even broader range than the Indian python. Their range includes virtually all of Sub-Saharan Africa south to South Africa and Namibia. The original southern terminus of the range was KwaZulu-Natal, which actually has a very temperate climate. That means that it is more cold tolerant than the Burmese python, which makes it only as far north as the tropical/subtropical transition region of China.
And if there were more African rock pythons in captivity in this country, I would be would be more concerned.
But there may be lots of limiting factors that would prevent them from taking over the subtropical parts of the US.
In fact, I think that I was wrong to think that the Burmese pythons would take over the US. Long-time readers of this blog, might remember this post where I linked to the US Geological Survey’s forecast for Burmese python range expansion. I was accepting of the findings, but then I read this study. It seems that South Florida is about the only place where Burmese pythons could live in the wild in the US. And even if we accept that climate change models as being valid, climate change actually reduces the suitable habitat for the Burms.
So claims that Burmese pythons are going to colonize New Jersey are probably not accurate.
However, I have yet to see any analysis on the potential range of the African rock python or a potential African rock python/Burmese hybrid. Maybe they could be better adapted to colonizing the US.
Now, the Borneo bateater isn’t a hybrid between the Burmese python and the African rock python. It is a hybrid between the Burmese and reticulated python. It is possible that the retics could colonize South Florida, and they are much more common in the US pet trade than African rock python.
And in case you didn’t know, the retics are the longest species of snake, approaching nearly 30 feet in length.
Pet retics have killed their owners, as have several Burmese pythons.
That’s why owning one requires a certain level of caution and a great deal of knowledge.
These animals deserve more than to be treated as curiosities and symbols of machismo. They need enlightened owners who can provide them with what they need.
I do not oppose python ownership, but I really wish more was done to ensure that these animals were in the right hands.
And I say this from this perspective: I’ve always thought these animals were cool, but I don’t know enough about caring for them to really provide the right home for one. I think feeding them full-sized rabbits would get expensive after a while.