have a wide collection of 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.
and Pythons] - None are poisonous - prey is killed by constriction.
Hind limbs reduced to small spurs. Pythons lay eggs, Boas bear live
Environment: Arboreal (trees), Territorial (land), Fossorial (burrows)
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).
Vipers, Adders, Rattle-snakes]
Pit Vipers use heat sensitive organs to detect prey. All are poisonous.
Environment: Aquatic (fresh water), Arboreal (trees), Terrestrial(land),
snakes] - Laterally compressed tails used in swimming. Most bear live
young. Poisonous bite can be fatal.
Environment: Marine (sea water).
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.
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.
have been particularly successful in breeding pythons, hatching
the eggs with the aid of ex-human incubators.
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
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.
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
has become more obvious to me how much suffering can be caused to
two creatures - rabbits and pet snakes - because they are both virtually
Snakes are faced with the same predicament. Not only are all snakes
deaf, they are also dumb - apart from a hiss - yet they possess
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.
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?
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
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
Morrison of the Department Conservation Land Management in Australia
described reptile-keeping his neck woods.
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
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.
of the reptile keepers have been bitten at some time or another,
but they know the correct treatment and anti-venom.
we find them we make sure they take the reptiles back and liberate
them in the original place because there is a conservation issue
Saw Scaled Vipers to the Rescue
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.
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%.
Europe, TO5 is about to undergo tests before being licensed for
use in hospitals by intravenous drip.
to Do With Reptile Eggs
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.
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.
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.
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.