For those of you who find these beautiful pythons fascinating, there is nothing more satisfying then to reproduce this species in captivity. Green Tree Pythons (GTPs) are a fairly challenging species of snake to keep and are not necessarily the right snake for beginners. Today, fortunately we have a lot more information about successfully keeping and breeding these unique snakes and in this article I will be describing the steps that experts have used in order to successfully reproduce this specie.
1. Selecting Healthy Stock
It is important to make sure that the GTPs that you select are healthy and that you keep genetic diversity in mind. Excessive line breeding can result in poor fertility and decreased longevity. When buying GTPs it is best to purchase animals that are 1 to 2 years old and raise them to maturity. If possible try and visit the breeder
that you are buying your snake from and see the parent snakes so you have an idea of what your snakes will look like as adults. Female GTPs will breed for the first time in around their fourth year and males will breed at around 2-3 years of age. Make sure to feed the females more during mid-summer time so that they have sufficient fat reserves for the breeding season. Males will tend to go off feed and fast during the mating season.
2. Thermal Cycling
GTPs should be kept at an ambient temperature of 31 ̊C under the hot spot and 26 ̊C on the cooler end. The breeding season is induced by dropping the night time temperature. This can be done by using a timer which can turn the heat off at night and back on in the day. Start by turning the heat off for 1 hour and slowly increase it to 12 hours on during the day and 12 hours off during the night. This decrease in temperature should be done over a period of three weeks until the night temperature gets to as low as 20 ̊C. This night time temperature must be maintained throughout the breeding season. When the female ovulates 24 hour heat can then be restored. Ambient room temperature is important when using this method to cool the cage as the temperature of the cage at night will be determined by the temperature of the room. So make sure that the room temperature does not get cooler than 20 ̊C. As long as your GTPs are healthy, night time drops in temperature will not result in respiratory infections. Well known GTP breeder Greg Maxwell from the USA mentions that this method of night time cooling has been successfully used for more than 30 years and that he has never had an increase of breeding success by manipulating light or misting cycles, which he keeps the same year round.
Now is the time when things start to happen. It is best to introduce males to females in the late afternoons. Don’t try and introduce males at dusk when the female will be in hunting mode as there is the risk of the female biting the male. Males will fast during this period and females will continue to feed aggressively during this time until they start to develop egg follicles. Make sure to keep an eye on the pair once you have introduced the male and make sure that there are no negative interactions between the pair when first introduced. When a male is introduced mating usually takes place on the first night and will often last well into the next day. At times when you first introduce the male nothing will happen, and then the animals will mate a few days later. The best time to introduce the pairs is after the female has shed, and the shedding is still in the cage. Males will ignore opaque females and you don’t want a female to go into a shed in the middle of the breeding season. Good pairs will mate many times over the next few weeks and if mating starts to slow down you can separate them for a few days and then place them back together. If a pair shows no interest in each other, try and separate them and re-introduce them in a week or two. Make sure never to cage any males together.
4. Follicle Development and Ovulation
After a few weeks of mating females should start to develop ripening egg follicles. These are immature ova that will develop into shelled, fertile eggs if all goes well. A sudden loss in appetite by a normally aggressive female is the best sign that she may be developing egg follicles. This is followed by swelling, colour change, personality changes and sideways rolling of coils to expose the developing ova to the heat source. At this time be sure to maintain the night time drop and remove the male. Some females prefer cooler temperatures at this time so make sure that a heat gradient is available and that you maintain your 31 ̊C basking area during the day. After several weeks of follicle development, the female should ovulate. During the ovulation the ovaries release the ripe follicles which then enter the oviducts. Ovulation is a process which can be seen by a 24-48 hour swelling that is fairly easy to notice. At times it will look as though the female is about to burst and she will often be very restless. The exciting thing about an ovulation is that it normally means that eggs are to follow. Whether they will be fertile or not you won’t know until they are laid. They say that if your snake has a good ovulation that is a large swellingthat lasts 48 hours, you have a very good chance of some fertile eggs being produced.
5. Pre-Lay Shed, Egg Deposition and Incubation.
Approximately 25 days after ovulation gravid females will undergo a pre-lay shed, with egg laying taking place 14 to 21 days later. Restore 24 hour heat to females once they have ovulated. Once the female has shed she will need to be provided a wooden nest box measuring 30cm squared. Line the bottom of the nest box with dry sphagnum moss. Several days before laying the female will enter the nest box. Make sure that the nest box is placed on the warmer end of the cage and that the interior floor of the box is 29 ̊C. Females usually begin laying the eggs in the morning and take several hours to finish laying. When the female is finished laying, she will coil around the eggs with her head on top, completely covering the eggs in a beehive-shaped coil. Some breeders allow the female to maternally incubate the eggs. Alternatively you can incubate them yourself. There are many benefits to artificial incubation, and the female will recover a lot faster when using this method. The eggs are artificially incubated at 30 ̊C-31 ̊C and can take about 50 days to hatch. The GTP eggs require high humidity but must be kept dry on the surface. This can be achieved by using damp vermiculite (1:1 water to weight ratio) in a plastic container with a few small holes in it. Get another smaller plastic container and place it in the middle of the larger container so that the damp vermiculite is all around it. Then fill the smaller container with dry sphagnum moss and place the eggs on the sphagnum moss. This is one method and there are many other methods that breeders use to successfully incubate GTP eggs, but just keep in mind high humidity and a dry surface for the eggs to be on.
6. Neonate Care
Baby GTPs are some of the most beautiful snakes around. Unfortunately they can be difficult feeders and some of them will require a bit of time and patience. Start off by housing your babies in individual containers in a heated rack system. The best containers are small plastic containers, about shoe box size, which have a few plastic perch holders and damp paper towel as a substrate. Baby GTPs can become dehydrated very easily so make sure that you have moderate to high humidity in their enclosures. This can be achieved by misting daily. After their first shed, babies can be tested for eating. Day old pinkies are good to start with, and these can be offered to the snakes in the afternoon with dim room lighting, using long forceps and gently tapping the baby GTP on his head and tail to get him stimulated to bite. As he bites the pinky release it straight away and keep dead still while the baby GTP constricts and eats, some of them will eat like this after a few weeks but others might need pinkies that are scented on geckos or chick down. Persistence, patience and experience is key to getting baby GTPs to eat. If you are having lots of trouble it is best to get some expert advice from others who have done it before. Feed once a week regardless of whether the snake has eaten or not.
Breeding GTPs can be frustrating and difficult at times, but when achieved it is one of the most rewarding species to breed, and something you can really be proud of!
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