The Asian Vine snake belongs to a genus known as Ahaetulla. It is a small genus of arboreal colubrids commonly referred to as Asian vine snakes or whip snakes. They are mildly venomous and opisthoglyphous, meaning they have enlarged teeth located in the rear of the upper jaw (also known as rear-fanged). Unlike the fangs of other venomous snakes, vine snake fangs are not hollow, but grooved. This allows venom to flow down the teeth from their venom glands and into their prey. Venom is chewed in, so to speak.
Asian vine snakes have a vast native range from Southeast Asia to Indo-China. Distributed throughout Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and West Malaysia, Ahaetulla inhabit humid tropical lowland forests and woodland, as well as dense swamps and jungle. They are also commonly encountered near human development and agricultural land that borders ideal habitat. When vine snakes sense danger, they will remain motionless, but if there is a breeze, they will sway back and forth with the foliage to add to their camouflage. At other times, for reasons yet unclear, if there is a threat, they will remain motionless with their tongue extended for minutes at a time.
Asian vine snakes do well in a suitably sized arboreal enclosure. Branches are an important part of the setup and a hide located on the ground of the enclosure and near the top of the enclosure is recommended. Substrate can be a mixture of peat moss and sphagnum moss. Provide a vertical thermal gradient, with an average air temperature toward the top of the cage between 29 and 32°C, and the cooler lower regions between 24 and 26°C. Use a heat pad adhered to the outside, top or back of the enclosure, controlled by a thermostat, to provide an arboreal hotspot of 34°C.
Misting your Asian Vine Snake’s enclosure is an important part of their husbandry. Not only does it provide drinkable water for your snake but it also helps to maintain the humidity which needs to be between 80 – 90%. That being said, brief occasions of humidity lower than this are also tolerable. A large water bowl will also be needed for drinking water and to soak in.
Although Ahaetulla’s most common natural prey is lizards, they will also take small birds and mammals on occasion. You can try to offer small rodents, but while pinky and fuzzy mice may be offered, some Asian vine snakes may never accept them. Live pinkies and fuzzies will be the most enticing, as vine snakes are alert to movement. If rodents are offered, it’s important to only offer pinky and fuzzy mice, as even juvenile rodents are capable of injuring the snake.
Although little is known about Ahaetulla venom’s effect on humans, envenomation is possible. Given their primitive means of venom delivery, they are not likely to pose a threat to a healthy adult. There are no known fatalities. Symptoms are normally limited to localized swelling and pain. Be aware of the possibility of an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis.
Working them has proven to be easy as they tend to be docile. Rarely do they make threat displays. When they do, they gape their mouths and puff up, but almost never strike. However, this is no excuse to deny the fact that Ahaetulla are venomous. Handle them with respect and caution; always use proper handling tools, such as hooks/tongs, etc. A thick pair of gloves should offer ideal protection. People familiar with this species will often, with caution, handle them as they would any kingsnake.
We hope this care sheet has given you some incite into this beautiful species of snake and although a have never seen any in South Africa, let’ws hope that we will start seeing some in the next few years!
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