Next in our dazzling cavalcade of serpents comes this striking pair: The Fire and Ivory Burmese pythons. The Burmese python is one of the five largest species of snakes in the world and is native to South and Southeast Asia. In the wild, they can be found near water or in trees, and average about 12 feet in length. However, they can potentially reach lengths of more than 20 feet and weigh in excess of 250 pounds!
Big snake, big responsibility
Because of their docile nature and simple requirements, Burmese pythons are among the most suitable of the large snakes to keep. They are available in a variety of colors and patterns. Because they originated from tropical climates, they adapt easily to the Philippine climate, which is perfect for them.
According to Melvin So, avid herpetologist with almost 20 years’ experience keeping and raising snakes, Burmese pythons are more challenging to raise than their more popular ball python cousins. Melvin says, “I believe that ball pythons are suitable for beginners, while Burmese pythons are for advanced keepers. You must consider the size of the Burmese pythons compared to the ball pythons.”
Melvin recalls raising a full-grown ball python in a 2×2-foot plastic tub under his bed. In contrast, he needs to house his full-grown Burmese python in a 6x3x2-foot enclosure. “Imagine the size difference between the two,” he explains. “The maintenance is totally different when you compare cleaning a 2×2 plastic container compared to a six-foot enclosure.”
This size difference is important to keep in mind when dealing with Burmese pythons. “You must be very careful while handling large snakes,” Melvin says. “Don’t get too carefree when handling big snakes as attacks could be fatal. I suggest always having someone else supervise while handling big snakes, so that someone can help you if anything goes wrong.”
Burmese pythons eat only warm-blooded prey, such as mice, and have sensory organs or pits to detect the body heat of their potential prey.
So, what makes the Fire and Ivory Burmese pythons unique? For starters, the Fire Burmese python is also known as the Hypo Burmese python. “Hypo, short for hypomelanistic, means that the animal has decreased black or brown melanin,” Melvin explains. Melanin is a dark pigment that is also present in human skin. “The people who discovered this mutation gave them the name Hypo Burmese python because of their lightness of color and lack of melanin.”
On the other hand, the Ivory Burmese python is completely white. “Every hobbyist . . . would be stunned to see a huge white snake for the first time,” says Melvin. “Of course, the ivory stands out against the Hypo. The first time I saw Fire and Ivory pythons was in 2005, somewhere in Asia. At that point I had no idea if the lightness of the Fire python and the White Burmese python genes were inheritable. After a couple of years, a friend of mine managed to get an Ivory Burmese python, and bred it with an Albino Burmese python. This produced 100 percent Hypos. Afterward, he also managed to breed with another Ivory python, and this produced 100 Ivory Burmese pythons. So, that [proved] that these snakes carry co-dominant genes.”
This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s February 2019 issue.