There are many types of large snakes in the world, but the biggest include the green anaconda, reticulated python, Burmese python and African rock python. These are all constrictors, which means that they wrap their bodies around prey and squeeze it until it suffocates. The largest poisonous species is the king cobra. People are able to keep all of these in captivity, using them for pets, zoological attractions or tourism and entertainment.
The green anaconda, which lives in South America, is a species of boa constrictor. Sometimes called the water boa because of how easily it is able to move off land, green anacondas can grow up to 29 feet (8.8 meters) in length and weigh more than 550 pounds (249 kilograms). Their bulky girth, which can reach as much as 12 inches (30.5 centimeters) around, accounts for their heavy weight. Anacondas are found in swamplands and streams in the Amazon and other rain forests, and their prey includes animals such as deer and wild pigs.
Slightly longer than the green anaconda but having less bulk, the reticulated python, sometimes called the regal python, averages 15 – 25 feet (4.8 – 7.6 m) in length, although reticulated pythons more than 30 feet (9.1 m) long have been discovered. One found in 1912 in Indonesia measured 32.5 feet (9.9 m) from end to end and long has been regarded as the world's largest ever recorded, but in 2004, disputed claims were made that another snake from Indonesia had been captured measuring 49 feet (14.9 m) and weighing 983 pounds (455.9 kg). The habitat of this species ranges from Myanmar and India across Southeast Asia, and it is also found in the Indonesian Islands and the Philippines. Usually, it eats smaller rodents, such as rats, but depending on its size, it occasionally moves to larger prey, such as pigs.
A threatened species, the Burmese python also lives in Southeast Asia, primarily in jungles and marshes. These solitary reptiles can grow up to 23 feet (7 m) long and reach weights of more than 200 pounds (90.7 kg), but they usually average about 20 feet (6 m) in length. When young, they like to live above ground in the trees, but eventually, they get too big for this. During adulthood, they are skilled swimmers and are more than comfortable in the water, but they also live on the land. Most survive on a diet of birds and small mammals.
African Rock Python
The African rock python, that continent's largest snake, grows up to 20 feet (6 m) in length and has weights up to 250 pounds (113.3 kg). Typically, they live on open savannas, but they also have been found in more forested areas. They are notable for being more aggressive when cornered than some of their cousins. In fact, they are said to eat alligators and crocodiles.
Claiming the title as the world's largest venomous snake is the king cobra, which is known for the "hood" of extra skin and ribs around its head that it can extend to appear more threatening. It is also known for its nest making, low, growling hiss and ability to rise the front part of its body up off the ground during attack and defense. Found in Southeast Asia, including India and China, the king cobra can reach up to 18 feet (5.5 m) in length and weighs in at up to 20 pounds (9 kg), and it is fast for its size. Its toxic venom can kill an elephant with one bite, but it feeds mainly on small mammals and rodents, such as lizards and smaller snakes.
Captivity and Status as Pets
As the green anaconda and reticulated, Burmese and African rock pythons are not venomous, some people successfully keep them as pets. Zoos also keep them for entertainment and education purposes. Often ones that are kept in captivity are not given the proper care they need, and especially in the case of the more aggressive African rock python, owners sometimes have to give them up or release them into the wild. The amount of space required is usually one of the biggest obstacles.
People generally do not keep king cobras as pets because of their dangerous venom, but a notable exception is King Cobra Village in Thailand, a major tourist attraction where every house reportedly has at least one. Individuals also keep them in captivity for the practice of snake charming. A trained individual plays music on a flute or similar instrument, and the king cobras respond to the resulting vibrations by rising up.
All of these large snakes are potentially deadly. There are numerous accounts of them killing people, although many are unsubstantiated. Many are not large enough to swallow someone, but the constrictors are still dangerous because of their ability to squeeze and asphyxiate prey. King cobras are shy and will not attack unless cornered or provoked, but they still kill about five people each year.