Common name: woma
Scientific name: Aspidites ramsayi (Aspidites = shield-bearer (referring to the large scales on the head); ramsayi = after Edward Ramsay, curator of the Australian Museum from 1874-1894.
Family: Boidae (non-venomous snakes, including pythons and boas)
Conservation status: This species is listed as Near Threatened in Queensland (Nature Conservation Act 1992) and Endangered internationally under the World Conservation Union's (IUCN) Redlist of Threatened Species, which lists species at a global level. It is considered a high priority for conservation under the department's Back on Track species prioritisation framework.
The woma is a large python with an average length of 1.5 m and a maximum length of approximately 2.7 m. This python is brilliantly patterned with a background colour of glossy yellowish or reddish brown to a pale greenish brown. This is accompanied by numerous dark transverse bands on the body and tail. The underside is cream to yellow with several pink or brown blotches. Juveniles bear a conspicuous dark patch over each eye, which may persist into adulthood. The small eyes and narrow head (which is barely distinct from its neck) distinguishes the woma from other python species.
The woma and the closely related black-headed python Aspidites melanocephalus are the only pythons that lack heat sensitive pits along the lips and front of the head. These features sometimes result in the woma being mistaken for a venomous snake, although like all pythons, it is harmless to humans.
Habitat and distribution
The woma is widespread throughout arid and semi-arid Australia from coastal Western Australia to western Queensland. In Queensland, the species occurs in the dry subtropics from the Northern Territory border to the Yuleba/Surat/St George area, in the western margins of the Brigalow Belt. These populations appear to be isolated from those in the far west of the state, possibly due to European land use in the Mitchell Grasslands and Mulga Lands. In the Brigalow Belt region, this species occurs on black soils and in stony ridge country in brigalow Acacia harpophylla woodland and grasslands. The woma is known from several state forests.
Life history and behaviour
This nocturnal species is occasionally seen basking during mild weather. Unlike other pythons, the woma is a ground dweller that seeks shelter in hollow logs, animal burrows or thick herbage during the day. It can also use its head like a shovel to dig and enlarge its burrow. The woma is an egg layer, laying up to 22 eggs per clutch. It incubates and protects its eggs by coiling its body around the clutch continually until they hatch.
The woma forages in the evening and at night, usually by ambushing its prey which includes reptiles, ground birds and small mammals, including the introduced hare and rabbit.
The woma is threatened by habitat loss due to land clearing and thinning operations, inappropriate road-side management and predation by feral animals such as foxes and cats.
- Identify key habitat throughout the Queensland Brigalow Belt (QBB) bioregion and priority areas for conservation in local government regions and develop management guidelines to protect these areas on private and state controlled land.
- Negotiate management agreements with landholders that are in line with recommended management guidelines to protect key habitat and priority areas.
- Implement monitoring programs in key habitat and priority conservation areas.
- Protect reptile habitat on the stock route network and shire roadsides and reserves.
- Adopt a collaborative approach to reptile conservation and encourage involvement from government agencies, regional Natural Resource Management (NRM) bodies, industry groups, indigenous groups, landholders and the community.
- Conduct community awareness of this species and other priority reptile species in Queensland.
What can you do to help this species?
- Become involved in community-based on-ground projects (e.g. fencing remnants to reduce grazing impacts, weed and feral predator control, reptile monitoring) and help protect habitat across a suite of land tenures, particularly on non-reserved lands.
- Help protect threatened reptiles in the QBB bioregion by supporting integrated pest management activities which seek to address feral animal threats (e.g. pigs, cats, foxes).
- Report sightings of this and other threatened reptiles to the Queensland Government by contacting the WildNet Team (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Cogger, H. 2014. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia. Seventh edition. CSIRO Publishing, Victoria.
Ehmann, H. 1992. Encyclopedia of Australian animals: reptiles. Angus & Robertson. Pymble, New South Wales.
Wilson S, and Swan G. 2017. A complete guide to reptiles of Australia (fifth edition). New Holland Publishers, Sydney.