Do you see that long creature, moving at an unnoticeable speed, slithering against the wall with a thin wavy tongue, in a glass enclosure at the zoo? Yes, that’s me the Indian python. I am a snake and my scientific name is Python molurus. In Hindi, I am also known as Ajgar.
Those of you who like to read would remember me as ‘Kaa’ from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. We are a group of non-venomous snakes which prey on other small animals by coiling around the creature. I belong to a family which has over 32 kinds of species, living all across the world.
If you visit a wildlife sanctuary or park you are likely to see me dangling from the branch of a tree or coiled on the ground or even hiding behind a bush ready to catch a prey.
Indian pythons weigh around 94kg and are over 20 feet long and sometimes even more. You would hardly see me during the day for I am a nocturnal creature, who is mainly active during the night. We are one of the largest snakes living on earth, behind only the anaconda and the reticulated python. We mainly live in dense forests and can be found in countries like India, Nepal Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.
Like most boas and python species, we are solitary animals who prefer to keep to ourselves. We love the calm of the night in a forest. We only seek companionship during the breeding season and are pretty choosy when it comes to picking friends. We’re prefer terrains and prefer to prey in an area where we have settled down. An impressive fact about us is that though we are mainly territorial creatures, we can even swim if a situation calls for it. My family members and I like to stake our claim on a roosting site where we generally hunt on small animals and birds.
As I told you earlier, we hunt mainly at night. What helps us hunt in the pitch-black darkness of the forest are the heat-sensing pits which are located on our lower and upper jaws. These pits are very sensitive to even the slightest changes in temperature and help us pinpoint the location of a warm-blooded animal.
A fun fact about us is that we can go on for weeks, even months, without food. We only hunt once in a while. We have a dark green and brownish skin with large black-coloured, irregular spots.
As far as our hunting style is concerned, we take advantage of the night to lay in ambush and suddenly strike on a prey. We can live up to 20 years or even more and become independent soon after being born.
We have been mentioned in legends and have been around on the face of the earth for several centuries. In fact, in some place, we are even worshipped. There are a lot of people who like to raise us as pets. However, I see all this changing very soon, thanks to mindless hunting by humans and loss of forest cover, which is where we normally live.
Another reason, which has led to a decline in the number of Indian pythons in the world is being misunderstood for venomous snakes. We are often mistaken for other venomous snakes like Russell’s viper, which has a similar habitat like us but can cause harm to humans.
Plus, many heartless people do not mind killing us so that they can sell them to leather manufacturers. Can you believe many people in the world actually wear shoes and carry bags made from one of family member’s skin!
Currently, I have been listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES). The convention bans the trade of Indian Python or their body parts. However, as the agreement is not binding on all countries, it’s enforcement is not enough.
In addition, as humans go on depleting forests for their selfish gains, we are driven out of our homes and are often left with nowhere to go.
We need help from all corners to ensure we ourselves do not fall prey to extinction. Although, the Indian government has established several sanctuaries for us but we are often killed by locals who flock these reserves in search for wood or firewood.
There is a lot that you kids can do for us. You can help us by saving us from extinction by telling people about Indian pythons and how we are killed often for the wrong reasons.
And if you ever want to drop by and see me, then you can visit places like the Bandipur National Park in Mysore, Pune’s Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park also known as Katraj Snake Park, Misinagudi park in Mysore and Muthiganga National Park in Kozhikode.