The Mangrove Viper, Cryptelytrops purpureomaculatus

The Mangrove Viper has often been avoided due to their large size, aggressive nature, and potent venom. This may be true, but in my opinion that is what makes them so appealing to experienced venomous snake enthusiast! It also turns out that there is so much more to this species that keepers can appreciate, especially when it comes the different colour varieties that are now showing up and being developed in collections. The Mangrove Viper is also known as the Purple Mangrove Viper in South Africa. I personally think that name Mangrove Viper is a better name for them as they are not always purple in colour. A well-known South African breeder, Graeme Lotter, has been breeding with Black and White and Singapore Phase Mangrove Vipers, which is creating a lot of interest in these snakes, which is great to see. These colour phases seem to be natural colour variations which are most likely a result of specimens from different localities.

This species ranges from India and Burma, through Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia to Singapore and Sumatra. Mangrove Vipers are a nocturnal and arboreal species and occur in mangroves, coastal wet forests and coastal swamps and marshes, as well as along canals, riverbanks and in thick vegetation near the coastline. This species was long recognized in the genus Trimeresurus, but now is classified in the Cryptelytrops genus. The subspecies C. p. andersoni from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands has now been elevated to a full species of it’s own.

These Vipers have a reputation for being unpredictable and should be approached with caution. Not for beginners, these snakes give no warning signs, and will strike readily at any threat, and its powerful hemotoxic venom is to be avoided at all costs. Bites can result in intense pain, swelling, necrosis of flesh, and in some cases severe systemic bleeding. Fatalities are rare but the hemorrhagic nature of the venom can lead to serious medical problems. Its colour can vary from a uniform dark grey or purplish-brown to a weakly-patterned brown, with a white stripe along each flank, or even greenish-yellow with dark mottling. Some are even mottled with dark brown/black, grey and white colours. The scales are strongly keeled and gives the snake a very attractive look. Females can reach a maximum size of 130cm and are much heavier and longer than males, which will only reach about 90cm and are fairly slender.

Mangrove Vipers are considered fairly hardy when it comes to arboreal vipers and can tolerate some changes from time to time. I think that an arboreal snake with this size and beauty is best housed in an arboreal display enclosure. This not only makes it safer for the keeper as they can always see where the snake is before opening the enclosure, but it also allows you to appreciate these snakes without disturbing them. Being arboreal, a vertical cage is ideal with lots of branches at different levels. Cage size for adults can be around 90cm high by 40cm wide by 40cm deep. Juveniles can be kept in plastic containers of the appropriate size. It is important to provide a heat gradient, which can be done with a ceramic heater in a light ballast which is placed on the outside of the cage if you have one of the glass Exo-Terra-like cages with wires mesh on the top. You can also use basking lights and heating pads that will provide a basking spot for your snake. The important thing is that you need to provide a heat source/spot of around 32°C near the top branches of the enclosure while at the same time ensuring that your snake cannot touch the heat source if it is hot. It is very important to make sure your cage has a heat gradient, so that the temperature on the other side of the cage or the bottom of the cage is significantly cooler to allow your snake to decide which temperature suits it best. Humidity needs to be kept quite high so it is good to spray the cage every other day. Not only will the spraying help with humidity but the snake might also drink the water drops off its body and the cage. It is also important to have a small water bowl with clean water in it at all times encase the snake decides to drink from that. Lighting can be placed in the cage for viewing but make sure that it is 12 hours on and 12 hours off, as these snakes are nocturnal. Plastic or live plants can also be added to the enclosure in order to give it a more natural and appealing look and the Mangrove vipers will also appreciate the security of all the leaves. Substrate can be a peat moss/sphagnum moss mix or a bark mix. Keep the substrate slightly damp, neither too wet nor completely dry.

Feeding these snakes seems to be little trouble they seem to naturally have a very good feeding response. They have heat-sensing pits located on the head between the nose and each eye. Feeding these snakes is simple once you get it right. In their natural environment Mangrove snakes will eat lizards, geckos and small rodents and therefore sometimes juveniles need to be coaxed into eating rodents. Mangrove snakes prefer to eat at night as they are nocturnal, but it’s not vital and usually these snakes will feed during the day. Feeding of neonates is slightly more difficult as some do not accept pinks straight away. Tease feeding will need to be done and for this you will need to use tongs which is vital for feeding any venomous snakes. Softly nudge the young snake on the body and tail. By tease feeding you are trying to get the snake to strike at the pink and most of the time when it does strike it will hold on and have a feeding response, but this requires a lot of time and patience and with a little perseverance your snake should be eating well in no time. Once it starts accepting pinkies feed a rodent no bigger than one and a half times the girth of your snake every 7 – 10 days, and they will grow fast.

Breeding these snakes is fairly straightforward the main goal is to stimulate a breeding season. In their natural environment they don’t have a typical summer and winter where it is significantly cooler or warmer but rather a dry season and wet season. To stimulate this decrease spraying and drop the night-time temperature. During these dryer months slowly start dropping the night time temps until they reach about 20°C, day time temps should remain the same. Continue this procedure for around 2-3 months along with decreased spraying. During this time it will stimulate follicle development and mating will most likely occur, it can take up to 6 months for the female to drop and you will notice she will be significantly larger a few months before she will drop. Mangrove Vipers have been known to have litters of over 30 babies! Babies should be separated as they are very aggressive and can bite and eat each other!

Overall this snake is not for beginner keepers and should only be kept by experienced venomous snake keepers. That being said, they are some of the most aggressive and impressive arboreal vipers and a 130cm female in a display cage is an impressive sight in the arboreal viper world!

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