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Green Tree Pythons

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Green Tree Python
Gary Ruplinger

The green tree python, or "Chondro" as they are often called, (Latin name Morelia viridis) is an arboreal snake that is native to Indonesia, New Guinea, and Northern Australia. This non-venomous reptile rarely grows to over 6 feet long, and is sedentary, spending most of its time coiled atop a tree branch.

Green tree pythons are appreciated for their beautiful coloring, which includes, in addition to bright light green, a variety of subtle pastel shadings, and even black occasionally. Oddly, the babies are fluorescent yellow, red, or chocolate brown, even if they're all from the same clutch. Because they are bird eaters in the wild, they have long teeth, and need to be respected. The personality of the green tree python varies widely, with some being quite tame. Others, though, are anything but tame. The green tree python is generally regarded as a snake you look at rather than handle.

Early attempts to keep these colorful snakes in captivity were fraught with disasters. Wild caught snakes were stressed and unhealthy and often died soon after being imported. Over the years, herpetologists have learned better ways to care for them, so that now they are quite a common captive snake.

Because they don't do much and prefer to be wrapped around a branch, cage requirements are smaller than with other similar sized snakes. A cubic enclosure of two feet long on each side is adequate. It is helpful to have wooden perches that can be removed with the snake for cage cleaning. It is very difficult to force a green tree python from its perch.

Some breeders of green tree pythons recommend using water as a substrate. Each snake needs its own enclosure. A vining plant called the Pathos can be placed in the cage, with the roots in the water and the vine arranged on the perches. As an alternative, you can use plastic plants. The idea is to provide hiding places among the branches. Most snakes are secretive, and green tree pythons are no exception.

Like other arboreal snakes, the temperature range they prefer is lower than what you might think, given their place of origin. A daytime temperature of 85 degrees seems to be a maximum, while the minimum should vary from 78 in the summer to 65 in the winter. The enclosure should be placed partially on a heating pad to keep the internal temperature warm enough and to provide humidity.

Green tree pythons that are not in good physical condition sometimes seem to need additional heat in their enclosures. A larger cage can be used so that you can provide a thermal gradient. This means that one side of the cage is kept warmer than the other. This is a very good idea for cold blooded animals, because the only way they can regulate their body temperature is to move into areas where the air is warmer or cooler.

Alternatively, newspaper can be used as a substrate, and a daily misting from a spray bottle can provide this extra moisture. A sprinkler system that imitates a light rain will also work. Even though high humidity is needed, the enclosure needs to dry out from time to time in order to prevent the green tree python from having skin problems, such as scale rot.

High humidity helps the snake when it comes time to shed. A good clean shed is better for the snake than having the skin come off in shreds, which is what happens when there is not enough humidity in the cage. Mist the snake during the shedding process. A more labor intensive method of helping the shed is to soak the snake in water.

The green tree python does not need a water dish for drinking. It will drink the droplets of water that collect on the surface of its skin. By eating birds and drinking in this manner, these snakes can live their entire life in the tree tops.

Feeding a captive green tree python usually involves providing a warm pre-killed rat by the use of long handled tongs. Evening is the best time to feed them, and any lights should be dimmed. Once every ten to fourteen days is often enough for these snakes. Males sometimes refuse to eat for six months or more. It is a good idea to keep track of the snake's body weight in order to make sure it is not getting too thin or overweight. When getting a new baby snake, let it get acclimated to the new environment for a week before trying to feed it.

If you're considering buying a green tree python, buy a captive born snake that is currently eating pre-killed mice. Getting these snakes to take mice for the first time can take some doing. Breeders report having to use tactics like getting the smell of lizards or birds on the pinkie mouse, or scenting it with a warm freshly killed bird.

If it is necessary to move the green tree python to another perch, you can lift a front coil with a type of hook and push the snake's tail to chase them onto the hook, where they can be taken to a new perch or a flat surface. This might be necessary for force feeding in rare instances. Certainly this is not a process for beginners.

Good quality captive born Chondros are recommended for collectors and would-be breeders. Wild caught snakes are sometimes sold and are just about always cheaper, but they run the risk of having been traumatized. They are also likely to have parasites. Captive born snakes are much more likely to be docile and easy to care for. They can adapt to handling better than wild born snakes.

While green tree pythons are certainly not a beginner snake, they are somewhat easier to learn to care for than many other snakes. As they become more common and are bred in captivity more, they are becoming better pets. They really don't need much care other than their pens kept clean and warm and an occasional rodent to eat. This means the green tree python is not a good choice for those who want a snake they can take out and handle frequently.



 

 
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