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Contains articles and advice on a wide variety of non-venomous snake species. Answers and addresses questions on species husbandry, captive status, breeding, news and conservation issues concerning non-venomous snakes.

Savu Python Care: Keeping One of the World’s Smallest Pythons

Savu Python

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by TomVickers

Pythons are highly valued by snake enthusiasts, but most become too large for the average household, and cannot be safely handled by young or inexperienced keepers. But in the early 1990’s a “big python in a small package” appeared in the pet trade, and its popularity has since soared. Averaging only 3 ½ to 4 ½ feet in length, the Save or White-Eyed Python (Liasis savuensis) is beautifully iridescent and calm in demeanor. And, with a natural range that spans a mere 60 square miles, this interesting snake is also important from a conservation perspective.

 

Classification

The Savu Python was first described in 1956, at which time it was classified as a one of three subspecies of the Macklot’s Python. Today, there is disagreement as to its species status, and many herpetologists continue to list it as Liasis mackloti savuensis.

 

Savu Python Description

The Savu Python’s outstanding features include brilliant iridescence and its noticeably-white eyes. Hatchlings are reddish-brown to rich orange in color. They undergo a radical color change with maturity, by which time most are dark brown and bear rusty-orange spots on the belly and sides. Some adults, however, are nearly black in coloration, while the scales of others retain an orange tinge.  Few adults exceed 5 feet in length, with most topping out at 3.5 – 4.5 feet; only 3-4 of the world’s 40 python species are as small.

 

Range and Habitat

The Savu Python is found only on the 10 mile x 6 mile Indonesian island of Sawu (also known as Savu), off Australia’s northwestern coast. It has the smallest natural range of any python.

 

Liasis mackloti savuensis

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by TimVickers

Although this snake’s natural history has not been well-studied, reports indicate that it is a habitat generalist. Savu Pythons have been found in wooded grasslands, palm thickets, thorn scrub, and along the ocean shore.

 

The Terrarium

Hatchlings may be started-off in 10 gallon aquariums. Adults can be accommodated in a 30-55 gallon aquarium. Screen tops must be secured with clips and a hide box should always be available.

 

Substrate

Newspapers and washable terrarium liners may be used as a substrate. As some keepers have reported that Savu Pythons seem prone to mouth irritations and infections, those kept on cypress chips http://bitly.com/Plr8BA or similar substrates are best moved to bare-bottomed enclosures at feeding time.

 

Light

Pythons do not require UVB light, but may benefit from the provision of a UVA bulb.

 

Heat

The ambient temperature should range from 75-84 F. Incandescent bulbs can be used to create a basking site of 90 F. Ceramic heaters or red/black reptile “night bulbs” may be employed to provide heat after dark. If needed, under-tank heaters http://bitly.com/SRpr5g can be used to further warm the basking surface.

 

Provide your snake with the largest home possible, so that a thermal gradient (areas of different temperatures) can be established. Thermal gradients, critical to good health, allow reptiles to regulate their body temperature by moving between hot and cooler areas.

 

Feeding

Little is known about the diet of wild Savu Pythons, but they likely prey upon small mammals and, perhaps, ground-dwelling birds and lizards. Small food items, such as mice or rat pups, are preferable to large, even for adults. Except for females being readied for b breeding and growing youngsters, Savu Pythons are best fed every 14 days.

 

Water should always be available. Bowls should be filled to a point where they will not overflow when the snake curls up within.

 

Temperament

Savu Pythons are typically calm in disposition, and generally tolerate gentle handling. Like all snakes, however, care must be exercised when working around them.

 

Breeding

Breeding activity is stimulated by a 2-3 month period of reduced temperatures (72 F by night, 82-85 F by day) initiated in late autumn. Clutches generally contain 5-10 eggs, which may be incubated in moist vermiculite at 88-90 F for 55-65 days. Hatchlings average 11-14 inches in length.

 

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook. Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable. I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly. Thanks, until next time, Frank Indiviglio.

 

Further Reading

 

Python Eats Crocodile: Giant Snake Meals

 

Green Tree Python Care and Natural History

The World’s Most Colorful Snake: 100 Flower Rat Snake Care

Mandarin Ratsnake

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Papas2010

Although various American ratsnakes have long been pet trade staples, Asian species have received far less attention from snake enthusiasts.  Among them, however, we find a fantastic diversity of colorful, interesting species, some of which are now being bred in captivity.  My favorite is the magnificent Moellendorff’s Ratsnake or 100 Flower Snake (Orthriophis moellendorffi).  It’s other common names – Red-Headed Ratsnake, Flower Snake and Trinket Snake – are a testament to its striking coloration.  Considered by many to be the most beautiful of all ratsnakes (“designer morphs” included!), Moellendorff’s Ratsnake care is now fairly well-understood…and it may well become the next “break-out” species from Asia!

 

Please Note: Unfortunately, I had difficulty finding photos that would reproduce well for this article.  The youngster pictured below is not as colorful as are many.  The other ratsnake species pictured here will give you some idea of the beautiful colors and variations exhibited by this fascinating group.  Please click here to view other photos of the 100 Flower Snake.

 

Juvenile100 Flower Snake

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Etienne Boncourt

Description

The Chinese name for this striking creature – 100 Flower Snake – seems to me to be the most appropriate of all.  A dazzling variety of blotches, which vary in color from rust-red to black, mark the body.  Areas of red or orange usually adorn the head, and re-appear along the lower third of the body.  The jet black eye is encircled by brilliant orange.

 

Individual 100 Flower Snakes exhibit a mind-boggling array of variations to this basic pattern…even, it seems, within the same geographic area.   In fact, breeders are generally unable to predict what the youngsters will look like!  Adults reach 5-8 feet in length.

 

Natural History

Field studies are, lacking, but over-collection for the food trade is said to have placed this snake in jeopardy.  As far as is known, the 100 Flower Snake is limited in range to southeastern China and northern Vietnam.

 

Copper-Headed Ratsnake

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by steve kharmawphlang

It is most frequently found in and near limestone caves on rocky hillsides, and among nearby bamboo thickets.  Lightly-wooded fields and riverside brush are also utilized. Hopefully, further studies will shed more light on its range, habits and conservation needs.

 

Scant published observations indicate that the 100 Flower Snake preys upon ground squirrels, rats, bats and other small mammals, birds and, perhaps, lizards and frogs.

 

The Terrarium

100 Flower Snakes seem stressed by small enclosures, and should be provided with proportionally larger accommodations than their American counterparts.  While a 55-75 gallon aquarium will suit small individual, larger adults are best provided custom-built cages measuring at least 6 x 4 x 4 feet.  Stout climbing branches should be provided.

 

Cypress mulch is preferable to newspapers as a substrate.

 

Heat and Humidity

100 Flower Snakes seem adapted to cool conditions, and fare best at temperatures that are relatively low by snake standards; wild individuals shelter in caves and forage in the early morning and evenings. An ambient temperature of 70-77 F should be established, along with a basking temperature of 78 F; a dip to 68 F at night may be beneficial.

 

Some keepers indicate that their snakes show a decided preference for subdued lighting.

 

Shedding difficulties often occur in overly-dry environments.  A humidity level of 50-60% is ideal, but dry basking areas must also be available.  A hygrometer and small reptile mister may be useful in maintaining proper humidity levels. The need for dry and moist areas and a varying temperature gradient argues in favor of providing this species with the largest possible enclosure.

 

A dry cave or other shelter, and another stocked with moist sphagnum moss, should be provided.

 

Diet

Despite their size, adults should be fed smaller meals than would be offered to similarly-sized individuals of other species.  Although we still have much to learn, it seems that adult rats may cause digestive problems.  Fuzzy rats (“hoppers”), rat pups and pink or fuzzy mice are often favored.  Some individuals prefer chicks, but usually accept chick-scented rodents.

 

Reproduction

Captive breeding is infrequent but on the rise…this trend will undoubtedly continue as more snake enthusiasts become aware of this beautiful snake.  A 2-3 month cooling off period at 58-62 F seems to stimulate breeding behavior. Clutches generally contain 5-8 eggs, which should be incubated at 80-82 F for 80-90 days.

 

Handling

Individual tolerance of handling varies almost as much as does their color pattern!  As with most snakes, wild-caught animals may remain defensive for quite some time.  It appears that the 100 Flower Snake is a retiring species that prefers to be left alone.  However, captive-bred individuals usually adjust well to careful handling.  As with all snakes, caution must be exercised when they are being fed or handled.

Hi, my name is Frank Indiviglio.  I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, aquariums, and museums, including over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.

 

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable.  I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly.  Thanks, until next time, Frank.

 

Further Reading

 

Natural History and Captive Care of the Taiwan Beauty Snake

 

Keeping Red-Tailed and Jansen’s Ratsnakes

Keeping the USA’s Longest Snake: Eastern Indigo Snakes as Pets

Eastern Indigo Snake

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Arjuno3

Hi, Frank Indiviglio here.  I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career of over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.  The magnificent Eastern Indigo Snake, Drymarchon couperi, is the longest of all snakes native to the USA, but occupies one of the smallest ranges.  These facts, along with stunning coloration and its reputation as a responsive pet, place the Indigo on the wish lists of serious snake keepers and zoos worldwide.  I had the good fortune to assist with an Eastern Indigo breeding/release program headquartered at the Bronx Zoo, which was both fascinating and frustrating.  Today I would like to pass along some thoughts on its natural history and captive care.

Description

The Eastern Indigo Snake is among the longest of all North American snakes; in the USA, only the Bullsnake, Pituophis catenifer sayi, regularly rivals it in size.  Robust and alert, the Eastern Indigo Snake averages 5-6 feet in length, with a record of 8 feet, 5 inches.  The glossy, blue-black coloration is unique to this species.  Some individuals, greatly favored in the pet trade, sport heads and chins highlighted by a reddish tint.

Natural History

The Eastern Indigo Snake is restricted to southeastern Georgia, southeastern Mississippi, and Florida.  Although coastal dunes, Palmetto scrub, agricultural areas and marsh fringes are colonized, healthy populations seem to require large expanses of longleaf pine forest and similar upland environments.  Human development within prime Indigo habitat has severely threatened this species’ future.  Today, only captive-born individuals may be legally sold, but over-collection was a severe problem in the past.

The Texas Indigo Snake (D. corais erebennus) ranges from southern Texas to central Mexico, while other relatives, known as Cribos, inhabit Central and South America.

Read More »

Captive Care of Latin American Ratsnakes – The Tiger Ratsnake

Hi, Frank Indiviglio here.  I’m a herpetologist, zoologist and book author, recently retired from a career of over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.  The first time I saw an adult Tiger Ratsnake (Spilotes pullatus pullatus) streaking through the brush in Costa Rica, I was immediately struck by the appropriateness of its local name – the Thunder and Lightning Snake.  Large, fast-moving, and eye-catching in coloration, this impressive beast stopped me in my tracks and made me gasp.  I’d captured dozens of adult Green Anacondas and handled thousands of other snakes in zoos and the wild, but this Tiger Ratsnake was in a class by itself.  Small wonder that it draws attention throughout its huge range, where it is known by many common names, including Tropical Ratsnake and Tropical Chicken Snake (the latter refers to its food preference on farms).  The first individual I encountered eluded me, but I was eventually able to get my hands on other wild specimens, and to care for a few in captivity.

Tiger Ratsnake

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Geoff Gallice

Description

Although not usually classified among the “giant serpents”, the Tiger Ratsnake is actually one of the longest snakes in the Americas.  Adults average 6-7 feet in length, but may reach 10 feet; 14-foot-long individuals have been reported.  They vary a good deal in color and pattern, but whether lemon-yellow with indigo-blue blotches or solid black speckled with orange, they are always stunning. Read More »

Habits of the World’s Largest Snakes – the African Rock Python

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  As a child pouring over Clifford Pope’s classic book The Giant Snakes, I came across an account of an African Rock Python (Python sebae) that had consumed a 130 pound impala antelope.  I pictured the scene, and determined to learn more about this largest of all African snakes.  As a teenager, I went to work for a well-known NYC animal importer.  In the course of unpacking hundreds of African Rock Pythons, all straight from the wild, I came to respect their ferocity – Reticulated Pythons, huge Florida Green Watersnakes, Anacondas and other notable “nasties” paled in comparison!  Working at the Bronx Zoo’s herpetology department, I read reams of Copeia, Herpetological Review and Herpetologica back issues, always scouting for unusual feeding records.  I was not disappointed…certain populations of African Rock pythons seem especially capable, even by large constrictor standards, of taking huge prey items…humans included (please also see this article on human predation by Reticulated Pythons).  Incidentally, the impala mentioned above may be the largest snake meal ever documented.  It was recorded in 1955 in South Africa – the 60 pound deer regurgitated by a Green Anaconda I tagged in Venezuela pales in comparison! Read More »

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