STAFF at a Sussex nature reserve are on the hunt for a python which was spotted last week.

It has been identified as a Royal Python, a breed of snake which can grow up to five feet in length and is usually found in central Africa, just north of the equator.

The snake was seen at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve on Thursday.

Charlotte Owen, wildcall officer at the reserve, said: "The python was spotted on the reserve last week and photographed but by the time it was reported to us, the snake had disappeared. 

"It’s thought to be a Ball Python, also known as a Royal Python. 

"They are popular as pets so this is either an escapee or deliberate release.

"But as a non-native species which is used to the tropical climate of central and western Africa it will struggle to survive here in the cold. 

"So we are keen to find and catch it for its own sake, but also to minimise any potential wildlife impacts. 

"Pythons can go for a long time without eating but if this one is active enough to hunt, it may be on the lookout for small mammals and other prey on the reserve. 

"It is non-venomous and does not pose a threat to people but may understandably cause distress if seen.

"Sightings should be reported to the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve office on 07884 494982."

Royal Pythons, also known as ball snakes due to their tendency to roll up when they are held, are popular as pets.