The Valencia Bioparc Zoo has witnessed the amazing moment its African rock python, considered the biggest snake in Africa, lays its eggs in a giant pyramid.
The 13-year-old female lives in an underground Savanna habitat in Biopark Valencia, which specialises in immersing visitors into its animals’ natural environment in the Spanish east coast city of Valencia.
Keepers had the pregnant African rock python (Python sebae) under a careful watch in the lead-up to the spawning where she laid 20 to 50 eggs in a pyramid shape before coiling around them to incubate them.
The new mother is four metres (13 feet) long and weighs around 26 kilogrammes (57 lbs).
Serge Barbera, the caretaker in charge of the snake’s habitat, said in a statement obtained by Real Press: “The eggs are a tennis ball size with a soft shell, something quite different from birds.”
He explained: “When females spawn, the eggs stick to each other to create a pyramid, creating one single unit.”
The mother then coils around the pyramid, wrapping them for warmth and protection. She will continue to incubate them for between 60 to 90 days.
According to Barbera, the offspring can survive by themselves at birth, eating fish, mice or amphibians.
Adult African rock pythons are normally between three and five metres (10 and 16 feet) long but can reach up to eight metres (26 feet), with powerful constricting capabilities.
They can eat large animals, like pigs, birds or even small crocodiles, said Barbera.
Despite a reputation for being aggressive, some African communities value them for their ability to protect crops said Barbera, who explained that they can play an important role in the balance of ecosystems by regulating rodent populations – making it important for them to be preserved in the wild.
He said their biggest threat is loss of habitat and hunters who value them for bush meat and their skins. Consequently, they are mostly found in reservoirs, national parks and other isolated parts of the African savanna.
Bioparc Valencia is home to several species of snake, including the Dumeril’s boa (Acrantophis dumerili) and the Ball python (Python regius) whose Spanish name (piton real) comes from the legend that it was the snake wrapped around Cleopatra’s wrist.