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SECOND REPRODUCTION

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Peter Kahl purchased a group (2.4) of wild-caught Boelen’s Pythons off of Dave and Tracy Barker in 1998. I was working at the Kahl facility and acclimated this group to captivity. The snakes averaged around six feet in length and had very good body composition. At first the entire group of animals would only accept chick scented rats but eventually accepted rats and rabbits. These were some of the largest Boelen’s Pythons I have ever worked with. Two years later one of the females was close to three meters. These animals were housed in Neodesha eight foot cages using a red 100 watt spot as a heat source combined with regulated ambient temperatures. The snakes were allowed to reach temperatures well into the 90F range under the spot and ambient temperatures ranged from the upper 60F to mid 80F range. Frank Memmo and Jason Baylin purchased a trio (1.2) from this group in early fall of 2000. The group was placed individually in six foot Neodesha cages at Jason’s home. Like most keepers in the northeastern United States, Jason keeps his collection in the basement. The snakes were allowed to acclimate to their new surroundings, experiencing daytime high temperatures in the upper 80 F range and nighttime low temperatures in the mid 70 F range. After several weeks Baylin/Memmo started to cycle the group and make introductions. Leaving the daytime high temperature constant the night time low temperatures were allowed to reach the low 60 F range. Baylin's basement would only allow the temperatures at night to reach these lows. The male courted the females by spurring and rubbing along the sides and top of their bodies. Copulations were witnessed throughout this time period. Baylin remarked seeing the end of what he thought was ovulation in the more slender of the two females. This 11 feet female started to exhibit behavioral changes by basking regularly and developing a noticeable mid-body swelling, proving his observations true. During gestation the female would bask early and then thermo regulate between the hot and cool side of the cage. Once the female entered her prelay shed a Rubbermaid nest box filled with moist sphagnum was placed inside the cage. After encydisis the female would thermo regulate by going in and out of the nest box. Thirty days after the prelay shed she deposited 16 large white eggs. The clutch was incubated in a homemade incubator at a constant 88 F. Seventy days later the eggs started to hatch. Three hatchlings successfully made it out of the egg leaving behind 13 stillborns. During conversations with Baylin/Memmo incubating techniques were most likely the cause of the low hatch rate. One female from this hatching is alive and well and hopefully will go on to produce another clutch someday.

These two successful reproductions share several things in common. The first is that both occurred within a ten mile radius from each other. This particular part of Maryland is approximately 200 meters above sea level and experiences all four seasons with multiple storm fronts moving throughout November and May. Winters can be extremely cold with temperatures well below 32 F (0 C) and summers can reach temperatures above 100 F ( C). Both groups were allowed to reach temperatures in the 50 F to 60 F range, with no ill effects to the animals. Second, both females were large, slender, and approximately older than five years of age (based on years in captivity as well as size at the time of importation). This may support the hypothesis of females needing to be more mature and less obese to have successful reproductions. The last thing worth mentioning is that incubation techniques had an influence on the number of living hatchlings. In today’s herpetocultural market there are a lot of good commercial incubators that have extremely good temperature/humidity accuracy. To have one of these would be an invaluable necessity to help further the success of incubation.

 

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While copulations have been fairly common in captivity, successful reproductions have been limited to four within the United States.
Photo by Baylin/Memmo.

Like most species of pythons ovulation is very evident when it occurs. Note the mid-body swelling. Photo by Spataro.

Baylin/Memmo’s female Boelen’s Python nicely coiled around her eggs and seemingly ready to defend her hard work.
Photo by Baylin/Memmo.

Baylin/Memmo’s clutch was set up on vermiculite and incubated at a constant 88 F.
Photo by Baylin/Memmo
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© 2007 Marc A. Spataro