One of the Pythons in Stretch's care.
The Southern African Python is the largest snake in Southern Africa, averaging 3-4 m long. Previously known as the African Rock Python, it's called 'Ombome' by the Owambo people of Namibia.
Pythons are extremely valuable in controlling rodent populations but are indiscriminately killed by fearful, ignorant humans.
Pythons have been reported to kill people but this is very rare. Pythons can however, inflict painful and dangerous bite-wounds which may require medical attention.
I once kept a small python, Monty, for a while but released 'him' into the bush after he slithered into my shirt and left a row of bloody teeth marks on my back.
A clutch of eggs laid by one of the large females in the Reptile Park early this year.
Pythons usually lay between 30-60 eggs and are the only snake I know of which incubate their eggs and remain with the babies for two weeks or more after hatching.
The eggs, each slightly smaller than a tennis ball, hatched after 91 days.
Mama raises her head in a defensive posture, her body coiled around the 21 newly-hatched babes.
I visited Stretch earlier this year and photographed two of the babes which he had in his living quarters.
Stretch doesn't have to worry about break-ins and thefts - no would-be thief has the courage to enter his house because of his reputation for keeping all kinds of dangerous snakes.
One of the two babes in Stretch's house was the 'runt' of the litter (with the spot, or scar on it's forehead).
When I last spoke to him, he said that the poor creature had all sorts of health problems and that he thought it will not survive.
Stretch displays some of his 'babies' before taking them out into the bush and releasing them.
The harsh reality is that very few of them will survive to adulthood, most will be eaten by birds of prey and other predators.
I wonder what the collective noun is for a bunch of baby pythons ... a Medusa?
Johan Marais - Snakes Of Southern Africa.