13 Jan White-lipped Tree Viper Caresheet (Trimeresurus albolabris)
It has been some time since we have done any articles on White-lipped Tree Vipers. As this is one of the most common arboreal vipers in captivity we thought we would revisit this species. First things first: these are venomous and should only be kept by people who have experience with keeping venomous snakes! They are a beautiful species of snake, boasting electric green colouring with yellow eyes. White-lipped Tree Vipers have a wide distribution and are found throughout Asia. They can reach sizes of 75 – 100cm with females being larger than the males.
There are a number of hobbyists that are passionate about arboreal vipers and specialize in them and they will agree that the White-lipped Tree Viper is the best species of arboreal viper to start out with. The reason why they are good beginner vipers is due to the fact that they are a generally hardier than other species and will tolerate temperature changes and humidity changes better than most of the other arboreal species. In this article we will look at the correct environment conditionals but let’s first look take a closer look at the venom of this species, which is important to understand.
While not often fatal to a healthy adult, the bite of a White-lipped Viper is a serious matter that should receive medical evaluation. Being primarily a cytotoxic venom, localized swelling and bruising is common. In many bites tissue damage will develop. Gangrenous infections are not unheard of as tissue becomes necrotic. As with all venomous animals, proper handling techniques and tools should be followed and used.
When working with any venomous animal, always have a prepared bite protocol that can be provided to emergency responders and doctors! Many doctors, especially regarding exotic animals, have little to no knowledge nor experience with the effects of venom and its damage to the body; and most likely will not know how to treat you. Despite them being so common, like many venomous snake species there is not much information on the care and breeding of them.
White-lipped Tree Vipers are an arboreal species and therefore they are often kept in display cages that are vertical with branches at different levels. Recently, though, breeders are proving that these snakes do equally as well in shallow plastic tubs in racking systems similar to that of our colubrids. They still provide branches which the snakes can perch from and the heat gradient they say is better for the snakes, as the heat strip runs at the back of the tub and the front of the tub is much cooler, providing a far greater heat gradient which allows them to choose where they feel most comfortable.
A day time ambient temperature of between 27 – 29.5°C is ideal for your White-lipped Tree Viper and a high humidity of between 65 and 80% rising up to 95% straight after their daily misting is required. Heating can be achieved be lighting or heating pads or cables.
Juveniles should be kept in separate plastic containers with moist paper towel on the bottom. Provide a couple of perches for them to climb. Keep them in this manner until they are feeding on rodents reliably. Juveniles are also known to be cannibalistic, so be careful when keeping snakes together.
In the wild these snakes feed on frogs, lizards and geckos. This is the reason why juveniles are problem feeders. But I have found once they are established feeders they have no problems. There are a few cases when newborns take a pink without any coaxing as their first meal, this has only happened for me once.
They will readily eat small lizards, but you should try getting them onto pinky mice as soon as possible. You can do this by scenting the pinks with a lizard (it sounds nasty but once it’s done you’ll be happy). If you can get one, get a lizard or gecko to shed its tail. Use the broken end and rub the pink with the ‘juice’. Using a live pink will help because they are pit vipers and they can see the heat. Try to dangle the item in front of the snake’s head and be patient. If after a while nothing happens, try to encourage a defensive strike by lightly tapping the snake’s head. They sometimes bite and then will just hang on and eat.
This process can be extremely quick or take a few weeks. Remember, persistence is key, so don’t give up and be patient. I have also found that frogs are good to scent the pinkies with. (Not toads, they are toxic.) Just rub the pinkie directly onto the frog’s skin (make sure the frog is not poisonous!). Sometimes, just when you are about to give up, a snake will just take a pink with no help at all.
You need to watch every feeding in case a piece of substrate gets stuck to the prey item. If you use feeding tongs, there should be no problem because they’ll take the prey and hang head down with the prey suspended in the air. They’ll wait for the prey to die if live and then swallow from that position. Try not to disturb the snake while feeding because they are quite nervous. Always use tongs because they are pit vipers and as soon as they smell/taste food, your warm glowing hand will be the first target.
Newborn White Lips don’t naturally drink water from a dish. They will drink off their bodies, leaves and from the side of the enclosure. Mist the enclosure for both humidity and drinking water! Leave a shallow container of water on the bottom however, as well some specimens will readily drink from a dish. It will also aid with humidity.
They are sexually dimorphic with only the males having a white stripe running the full length of the body. They are electric green with a bright yellowish to green under-side. The tail is a brick red colour. The females are considerably larger than the males, up to 81cm and the males, 60cm. The males tend to stay rather skinny, while the females get quite fat and stocky.
Males are able to mate at a fairly small size, while the females will only give consent to mate once they are of adequate size. This could take up to two years. They breed in our winter months and while this is happening, males will stop eating completely. My male did not so much as look at food for four months, but as soon as it warms up they will start to feed, but as long as the male is kept with the female, he will refuse food even if it starts to warm up. Females generally drop at the end of November through to December. An average clutch can be from 12 to 15 young, but exceptional clutches of between 25 and 30 have been recorded.
Until recently no mutations of the White-lipped Tree Viper were thought to exist, until some T- Albino White-Lipped Tree Vipers were born in a private collection in Europe. Fortunately at Ultimate Exotics we managed to acquire this recessive mutation and are currently working with it. The T-Albino mutations results in a pure bright yellow snake with a red pupil and a red tail. These have to be one of the most striking Albino mutations I have ever seen in any snake!
Keeping these snakes is fairly simple and I’d recommend the White Lipped Tree Viper for those who would like to get into venomous as they are fairly docile, not deadly, and when displayed properly are very beautiful to look at. Most of the information I have provided has been from my own experiences and findings and may vary from keeper to keeper.
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