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‘A bit of bleeding but very little damage’ – Johan Marais shares the story behind recent python photoshoot

python bite
Snakes and Snakebite in Southern AfricaSlange and Slangbyt in Suider-AfrikaA Complete Guide to the Snakes of Southern Africa'n Volledige Gids tot die Slange van Suider-Afrika

Johan Marais, internationally renowned herpetologist and author of Snakes and Snakebite in Southern Africa, has shared the story behind a recent photoshoot involving a python and a very bloody arm.

The shoot involved Shawn Hefer of the African Snakebite Institute being bitten “a few times” by a young python, resulting in “a bit of bleeding but very little damage”.

Have a look at the photographs, and check out the African Snakebite Institute on Facebook for more:



There is a great deal of myth about pythons, especially with regards to attacks on people. Pythons in Africa do kill people, but rarely so.

There are as few as 3 proven cases where people were killed by pythons in Africa in the past 100 years+. Attacks by pythons are often reported, especially when one has been killed and appears on the front page of a newspaper. But these attacks are seldom true and there is a likelihood that the snakes are being killed for the muti market.

During a study on python behaviour at Kwalata Reserve, the members of the Alexander Lab at Wits had two or three python bites in the wild but the snakes immediately released after biting, as if they realised their mistake. The wounds were superficial. Pythons do have a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth and have the ability to inflict very nasty bites, often resulting in stitches. The reason is that people pull the pythons off and the sharp teeth rip through skin.

I am busy with a program on pythons and we staged some photographs this morning where a young python latched onto Shawn Hefer’s arm a few times, causing quite a bit of bleeding but very little damage. Have a look at the photographs. Incidentally, the Southern African Python (Python natalensis) is projected in most provinces and is on the TOPS list but it is not an endangered species – in the Reptile Atlas it is listed as ‘least concerned’.

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