GREEN TREE PYTHON
This is a small, slender species of python, seldom exceeding six feet in length. This species is almost totally arboreal, preferring to coil over a tree branch than rest on the ground. Virtually all activities, from food and water acquisition through breeding and probably egg incubation are accomplished in the treetops.
GTPs are sedentary animals, content to sit immobile on a branch. As such, they require significantly less cage space than other, more active species. Animals at this facility are maintained individually in arboreal cages, with the overall dimensions (H/W/D) of 24/24/24 inches. Other breeders have found it just as easy to keep GTPs in aquaria. Natural wood perches are attached to the cage walls in such a manner that the animal can be removed from the cage, branch-and-all, which allows for cage cleaning or manipulation of the specimens with minimal disturbance. This is particularly important, as these animals are well-adapted to life in the trees, and it is extremely difficult to remove a GTP from a branch without a major effort.
The animals should be provided with full-spectrum fluorescent lighting for a minimum of ten hours per day year round.
Although the species comes from an area that reaches a daytime tem- perature of 95 F routinely, experience has shown that the animals do not appear to enjoy this temperature. As the cage temperature is raised above 85 F, both juvenile and adult GTPs move as far away from the heat source as possible, frequently taking refuge on the floor of the cage. However, debilitated animals, appear to seek out higher temperatures. Thus, the animals should be continually monitored, provided with additional heat if necessary, or given a large enough cage to provide an extended thermal gradient. There is day-night temperature cycling as well, with the mean cage temperature varying between 85-78 F in the summer and 85-65 F in the winter.
In nature, GTPs generally feed on birds, lizards and small mammals. As mentioned, being bird eaters, they have extremely long teeth in relation to their head size, to allow the teeth to penetrate feathers and hold the prey tightly. Prey is captured in a typical python strike and constrict manner. However, this is accomplished from a branch, the GTP will remain anchored by the rear third of its body, and will constrict and eat while hanging head-down. Occasionally, captive GTPs may be finicky feeders, preferring a diet of chicks. However, whenever possible, animals are fed warm dead rats offered on forceps in the evening, when they are most active. Calcium supplement is added to the females' food items to replace calcium lost during egg production.
Because of the specialized needs and unique habits of this animal, the Green Tree Python is definitely a species that should be left to experienced hobbyists. But, due to increased success over the past few years, it is felt that the chondropython is not a problem animal to maintain in captivity if its needs are properly addressed. When they were being imported, the animals were brought in by the hundreds, usually arrived in poor condition, and most died in a matter of months. Importation has now been restricted for a number of years (although wild-caught fresh imports are again becoming available). The wild caught animals still in collections are survivors of importation and consequently are the healthiest of specimens and well adjusted to captivity. They have had a number of years to adjust to their environment, have eaten well and are generally in prime condition. It is these wild caught individuals and new generations of captive hatched animals that make up the current collection stock. These animals can be manipulated with less stress and can be maintained far better than a fresh import. These superior animals plus increased correspondence between breeders have helped overcome most of the husbandry problems, making the Green Tree python a spectacular and rewarding collection animal.