Woma python (Aspidites ramsayi)
|Also known as:||Ramsay's python, sand python|
|French:||Python De Ramsay|
|Spanish:||Pitón De Ramsay|
|Size||Length: 1.5 m (2)|
Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Schedule 4 (Specially Protected Fauna) of the Western Australian Wildlife Conservation Act (2).
The woma python is distinguished from other Australian pythons by its narrow head which is barely distinct from the neck (2). It has small eyes, smooth scales, a broad body and a thin tail (3). This species is coloured grey, olive, brown or rich red-brown above, with several darker olive brown to black cross-bands on the body. The sides are paler and the underside is a cream to yellow colour, with pink or brown blotches (2). The woma python and its relative the black-headed python, do not have heat sensitive pits bordering the mouth like other pythons (4).
This species is found in the Australian interior, from central Australia into the south-western edge of Queensland, and into northern South Australia. There is also one coastal area in north-eastern Australia around the Pilbara coast where this species is found (5).
Inhabits arid zones, favouring open myrtaceous heath on sandplains and dune fields that are dominated by spinifex grass (Triodia species) (2).
This species is nocturnal, and preys upon a variety of terrestrial vertebrates such as small mammals, ground birds and lizards (2). It catches much of its prey in burrows where there is not enough room to throw its coils around it. Instead the woma pushes a loop of its body against the animal so it is crushed to death against the side of the burrow. Many adult womas are covered in scars from retaliating rodents as this technique doesn’t kill prey as quickly as normal constriction. By day it shelters in hollow logs, animal burrows or thick vegetation (5).
Like other pythons this snake lays eggs (4). Mating occurs from May to August and between 5 and 19 eggs are deposited between September and October. Females coil around their eggs throughout the incubation period, and after two to three months the young emerge (5).
Populations have been affected by the clearing of habitat for agricultural development and grazing in Australia. Habitat loss not only removes the woma python’s shelter, but also depletes the abundance of small vertebrates in the area. Predation by introduced foxes has also played a part in the woma python’s decline in Australia (2) (5).
This species is listed on Schedule 4 of the Western Australian Wildlife Conservation Act which classifies it as Specially Protected Fauna (2). Under the Australian Protected Areas Programme, a 132,566 hectare area has been established to protect species including the woma python (6). It is important to provide incentives for landowners in this area to reduce the impact of current land use practises on this species (2). Population surveys should be conducted on the woma python both within and outside of this reserve in order to best target conservation practices (2).
For more on the woma python see:
- Nature base, Department of Environment and Conservation, Western Australia:
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- Nocturnal: active at night
- Vertebrates: animals with a backbone.
IUCN Red List (July, 2014)