home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Python natalensis (South African python, Natal rock python)

Suider-Afrikaanse luislang [Afrikaans]; inHlwathi, uMonya, imFundamo [Zulu]; iNamba, iFoli, uGqoloma [Xhosa]; inHlathu [Ndebele]; Nhlarhu [Tsonga]; Hlware [Sotho/ Tswana]; Tharu [Venda]; Shatu [Shona]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Lepidosauromorpha > Lepidosauria > Squamata > Serpentes (snakes) > Family: Boidae > Genus: Python

Young South African python about 1.8m long, Kruger National Park. [photo Lorinda Steenkamp ]

Python natalensis (South African python, Natal rock python) with Impala it has killed. [photo Arno Meintjes ]


The South African python can be identified the following, a dark brown body with dark speckling and grey or brown splotches, an arrow head marking on its head and its large size (It is the largest snake in southern Africa). This snake has an average length of 4 meters but has been recorded as growing up to 6 meters.

Distribution and habitat

Distribution extends from Kenya and Burundi south to southern Africa. Within southern Africa is is found in southern Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, northern Namibia, Swaziland and South Africa (northern KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo). It is present in a wide variety of habitats including savanna and lowland forest.


Includes rodents (e.g. cane rats), hares, monkeys, small antelope, birds, fish, crocodiles and monitor lizards; Juveniles feed on rodents (e.g. mice) and birds.

Predators, parasites and disease

Fed on by the following animals mongooses, meerkats, crocodiles, wild dogs, hyenas, honey badgers and other snakes.


Oviparous (egg laying) - generally between 30 and 60 eggs are laid in a disused termite mound, This snake is well known for coiling around its eggs in order to provide protection and enable them to hatch faster.


This python species has been known to live for 30 years in captivity.

Medical importance

Although non-venomous, pythons are dangerous because of powerful teeth which can cause tissue damage so severe that stitches may be needed; a large python can kill a person and there are a few records of this happening.



  • Broadley, D.G. 1983. FitzSimons' Snakes of Southern Africa. Delta Books, Johannesburg.

  • Marais J. 2004. A Complete Guide to Snakes of Southern Africa. Struik Publishing, Cape Town.