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Buying your Green Tree Python

by Winslow Murdoch

Due to the collecting methods of this species, the large number of illegally imported animals, and the false documentation that comes with them, I feel that you are best buying animals that come from captive born stock (with animals whose parents you have seen and evaluated for similarity in general traits), or from reputable wholesalers that will stand behind their products. The greatest problem is when you buy animals from even reputable dealers, you often get an animal you werenít expecting. I have seen dehydrated animals that were of good to great color that after a six month stint in captivity died unexpectedly. I have also seen animals that came from reputable dealers that were of below average color and health, advertised as screamers. Like a lot of things in life, if you want the best, you have to pay extra. Never buy sight unseen!

The market of reptiles as living art and novelties will soon make it necessary for a two tiered market to form. One will have yearling color changed animals, and there will be unknown neonates for sale at a lower price. Larger long time breeders will still have the ability to sell captive proven lines of neonates with desirable color traits in the adults for a premium.

As to the acclimation process, I always assume that even "well acclimated" wild (or even captive animals, until I get my fecal report back and finish mite treatment prophylactically, and quarantine) animals from reputable breeders are covered with mites, and full of worms, and a bevy of other parasites. I de-parasitise all animals that come into my collection with several doses of no pest strip, droncit (for tapeworm), flagyl, and panacur, and find all wild animals, regardless of who I bought from, to be heavily parasitised on arrival. Many post treatment scats initially look like fishing bait with all the round worms and tape worm segments. If the animals arrive in very good condition, with lots of fat stores and eat well, they might breed quickly in the first 6-8 months in captivity if cycled early. The risk is that they will be stressed out and die a few months after egg laying or mating, and this is a real issue with about ľ of these female animals. Many will establish themselves well initially, but not breed successfully for 4-6 years after arrival for reasons yet unknown. Females in particular are noteworthy for this fact. As to the interest in locality specific animals, I have spoken to numerous individuals who state that all localities produce variable color types. It is hard to say with certainty that a given animal, with itís particular yellow or blue or white speckled pattern, is without question from a given locality. We as breeders are just now trying to breed animals with similar color traits and hopefully we will have answers soon..

One last detail that I picked up at the 1997 Mid-Atlantic reptile show from Dave Barker, who I guess doe not mind researching minutia (as a taxonomist by training and volition). I couldn't think of a more tedious way to spend my years in grad school, counting snakes scales, or studying law, but without diversity of interests, our world would be a much less interesting place. He is coming out with a new book in a year or so that examines the diversity and complexity of python species native to Indonesia and New Guinea. He is stalled due to his research that has found that the old taxonomy of this area is largely inaccurate. He has now identified over five previous subspecies of amethystine python that he now feels need to be classified under separate species status. Even though they superficially have the same scale counts, they inhabit vastly different bio niches, come from isolated locations, have vastly different colors, temperament, size, and reproductive biology/fecundity, and basically are all very different. He has personally invested over five thousand dollars to a genetics lab to investigate the general, and mitochondrial genetic similarities of these superficially similar animals, and has found very significant genetic differences. Likewise, with Chondros, he has noted significant variations in this taxa, even to the point of very different scale counts among the different locality types, and feels that there are likely seven distinct subspecies (if not true separate species) that exist. He has already bred this taxa, and isn't working with them or spending $ on genetic studies, but feels the same likely applies. In his book, he will lump them together, but will likely state what is noted above. Bottom line, we really don't know exactly what we are doing! since all the species in the Indo-Australian region have all come from a common ancestry (at least that's the present party line), many of them can be intergraded, and even produce fertile offspring. This used to make them be classified under the same species, but with lower vertebrates, this doesn't hold true. By the way, I and am not an authority in these matters. if anyone has more formal training in these issues, feel free to chime in, and tell me Iím off base. I've never been good at citing literature, but i have a knack for remembering the gist of what i learn, and then never forget. sometimes not forgetting can lead to stale assumptions.


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