Originally Published: November 21, 2012 10 p.m.
Snakes have always featured heavily in histories and legends of cultures all over the world, from the serpent in the Garden of Eden to Quetzalqoatl, the plumed snake of the ancient Aztecs.
Some cultures revere snakes, while others fear and loathe them.
While many of their myths are extraordinary, the facts about these animals are often equally fascinating.
The story of Amarillo, the albino Burmese python at the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary in Prescott, is no exception.
Amarillo was found in 2008 on a dirt road in Yavapai County. A driver stopped because he thought it was a 2x4 piece of wood. When the driver got out to move it, he realized it was a very large snake. Amarillo was taken to a local reptile rescue where he was rehabilitated. Amarillo was later brought to the sanctuary where he is a crowd favorite.
Burmese pythons are one of the world's biggest snakes. They can reach lengths of up to 23 feet and weigh up to 200 pounds. They are native to the jungles and marshes of Southeast Asia. They are excellent swimmers and eat small mammals and birds in the wild. The median life expectancy of Burmese pythons is about 20 years.
All pythons are constrictors, which means they do not inject poison into their prey like venomous snakes do. Constrictors grab their prey with their mouths, which are lined with rows of backwards curving, razor sharp teeth, and they wrap their bodies around their prey. Burmese pythons have heat sensors along their jaws to help detect prey. They swallow all their food whole.
Burmese pythons are popular pets. If you are thinking about getting a Burmese python or any snake as a pet, make sure you do your research. It is very important that snakes have an adequate enclosure that is secure. Snakes are escape artists by nature and once they find a way out, they will continue to escape. Amarillo was most likely someone's pet before he escaped or was released into the wild.
Amarillo now serves as an animal ambassador for Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary. He goes out on outreaches to classrooms and special events and often does shows at the sanctuary.
You can see Amarillo and many of the animals at Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary during the Wildlights holiday light show. The event runs every Friday and Saturday night between Thanksgiving and New Years from 6 to 9 p.m. Call 778-4242 or visit heritageparkzoo.org.