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Snakes

We have a wide collection of snakes:

Adder Bismarck Ringed Python Liasis boa Blood Python Boa constrictor Brown Water python
Bull Snake Pituophis melanoleucus sayi Burmese Brown Python Californian Kingsnake Lampropeltis getulus californiae Carpet Python Corn Snake Elaphe guttata
D'Albertis Python Emerald Tree Boa Corallus caninus Florida Kingsnake Lampropeltis getulus floridana Green Tree Python Hog Island Boa
Indian Rock Python Python molurus molurus Light Phase Indian Python Macklots Python Madagascar Tree Boa Sanzinia madagascariensis Mexican Burrowing Python
Milk Snake Lampropeltis triangulum Olive Python Liasis olivaceus Papua Python Liasis papuanus Pine Snake Pituophis melanoleucis Royal Python
Timor Python West African Burrowing Python Calabria reinhardii      

  • Are snakes deaf?
  • Australian Snake-Keepers Take Chances With Dangerous Species
  • Colour mutations in snakes
  • Looking after reptile eggs
  • Snakes - suffering in silence
  • Saw Scaled Vipers-venom to the Rescue
  • Snakes - 3000 species. Most are limbless although some have hind limb remnants. All are carnivorous; greatly distensible jaws allow prey to be swallowed whole. Teeth are shed and replaced throughout life and in some, are modified as poison fangs. Snakes are deaf although sensitive to ground vibrations. They smell by flicking forked tongue out, then into special " Jacobson's Organ in their mouth.

    BOIDAE

    : [Boas and Pythons] - None are poisonous - prey is killed by constriction. Hind limbs reduced to small spurs. Pythons lay eggs, Boas bear live young.
    Environment: Arboreal (trees), Territorial (land), Fossorial (burrows)

    Colubridae

    : [Includes Cobras, Mambas, Grass-snakes].
    Most widespread and numerous group. Some harmless, many poisonous. No limb remnants. Environment: Aquatic (fresh water), Arboreal (trees), Terrestrial(land), Fossorial (burrows).

    Viperidae

    : [Includes Vipers, Adders, Rattle-snakes]
    Pit Vipers use heat sensitive organs to detect prey. All are poisonous.
    Environment: Aquatic (fresh water), Arboreal (trees), Terrestrial(land), Fossorial (burrows).

    Hydrophidae

    : [Sea snakes] - Laterally compressed tails used in swimming. Most bear live young. Poisonous bite can be fatal.
    Environment: Marine (sea water).

    Snakes may give some people the horrors, but they can also be a source of wonder for the beauty of their skin patterns, the ease of their seemingly impossible movement, even the perfection and ingenuity of their evolution. Snakes' loss of limbs and body elongation have gone hand in hand with a host of accompanying adaptations, like the ever-open eyes (actually protected by a transparent eye-scale), and the long, flexible, forked tongue, which they smell with. The absence of limbs makes it relatively easy matter for snakes to shed their skin in one piece, and to swallow their prey whole. They can even temporarily dislocate their jaws to swallow meals bigger than their own head.

    We specialise in our snake keeping on those which are threatened in the wild and can be helped by captive breeding, like the various West Indian boa species. These are one of many examples of island species facing serious pressure today from humans and their introduced animals. The Rainbow Boa, ancestor evolutionary of the West Indian boas, has a lovely sheen on its skin.

    We have been particularly successful in breeding pythons, hatching the eggs with the aid of ex-human incubators.

    Our collection of reptiles is one of the top three in Britain. The Tropical House has been one of our major, if not the major, buildings for many years, and it contains a magnificent collection of reptiles which is the envy of herpetologists the world over. Many of the species and individuals represent years of work by our dedicated staff.

    For many years our snakes were built up around a population of pure bred Light-phase Indian pythons from Sri Lanka, which we have bred into the second generation in captivity, and several species of Glasgow-bred Light-phase Indian pythons can be found in major reptile collections throughout Europe, including Rome and Moscow, and are valued because everyone knows they have been carefully pure bred.

    Did you know that all snakes are deaf? And they are mostly mute, all they can do is hiss, so it's our responsibility to ensure we interpret their needs and wants through careful observation. These wonderful creatures are highly intelligent, and you know how frustrated you get when you can't communicate effectively, so take the time to consider them.

    Snakes Suffering in Silence

    It has become more obvious to me how much suffering can be caused to two creatures - rabbits and pet snakes - because they are both virtually mute.
    Snakes are faced with the same predicament. Not only are all snakes deaf, they are also dumb - apart from a hiss - yet they possess amazing intelligence.
    It is the responsibility of human owners to watch the behaviour of their snakes to discern if they are in distress. It presents a great opportunity to really get to know your animal, by observing what they are telling you by their non-verbal behaviour.

    At Glasgow Zoo, it was generally accepted that most Pythons and Boas had a longevity of some twenty years, or so. Mortality at most public collections was also unacceptably high. Recent data suggests much greater longevity is possible with at least one instance of 35 years for a Loxo. being recorded. Most of our animals arrived as young adults, yet none show any signs of aging yet.

    Are Snakes Deaf?

    Although most snakes are supposed to be deaf, and unable to hear, one cannot help wondering about creatures like those Hog Island Boas . If a mouse, or a sparrow runs, or hops, across the top, or outside, the solid roofed cage, the snakes are immediately alert and tracking it.

    Raindrops dripping through a leak in the roof have a similar effect. Are they that sensitive to the vibrations, or can they hear something? What about the snakes swimming from island to island? Do they check randomly for prey, then closing-in by sight, or do they wait to for them to approach?


    Australian Snake-Keepers Take Chances With Dangerous Species

    Kevin Morrison of the Department Conservation Land Management in Australia described reptile-keeping his neck woods.

    He said: "Most of our reptile-keepers are extremely knowledgeable. We are fairly strict about licences and who can keep what, but some of these guys are going out into the bush and coming back with other species.

    "This is a fairly difficulty thing to police. Some of the snakes they keep are extremely dangerous, including death adders, tiger snakes and king brown snakes.

    "Most of the reptile keepers have been bitten at some time or another, but they know the correct treatment and anti-venom.

    "When we find them we make sure they take the reptiles back and liberate them in the original place because there is a conservation issue here also.

    Saw Scaled Vipers to the Rescue

    It's always good to hear about the beneficial effects of snakes, which are often regarded as vermin. In Australia and the United States, a product made from the venom of the Saw Scaled Viper is proving of great benefit to heart attack victims.

    The compound TO5, made from the venom, has had the toxic parts removed and now it acts as a super asprin. It reduces the incidents of heart attack in high risk groups by 50%.

    In Europe, TO5 is about to undergo tests before being licensed for use in hospitals by intravenous drip.

    What to Do With Reptile Eggs

    With so many people keeping reptiles these days, it is inevitable that breeding will occur. Problems occur when owners don't know what to do with the eggs. For beginners, the advice is simple. Place the eggs the same way up as they were laid in either a tray of fine sand, or a bag of peat. You should then place the tray or hang the bag near the hot water tank in your house, or over a radiator. Then, after a few weeks, if the eggs are fertile, they will hatch.

    The one important thing to remember is that, unlike bird eggs, reptile eggs should not be turned each day. In a reptile, the air sac rises to the top of the egg about 24 hours after laying. If the egg is turned after this, the sac will crush the developing embryo and kill it.

    Colour Mutation

    With so much captive breeding of reptiles, it always surprises me that we still import significant numbers from the wild. Between 20 and 30 species are still regularly bred each year and some of these can be almost regarded as domesticated, especially those which are available in a number of unusual colours. These colours have been produced by mutation or selective breeding and are not available in the wild. Many of these mutations are extremely valuable because the rare colours bring a certain novelty appeal. Recently, I was quoted 6,000 for a pair of pied Royal Pythons.

    However, many people think that private breeders in this country should be encouraged. At least then the demand for reptiles captured from their wild habitats might drop.