Calabar Ground Python

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Is the Calabar Ground Python right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: West African Burrowing Python, Burrowing Python

Scientific name: Calabaria reinhardtii

The basics:
The Calabar Ground Python has both python and boa-like characteristics, yet it differs radically from typical members of both groups. If you would like a snake that is like both – and neither – than this is the species for you! Despite the common names, today most herpetologists classify this odd creature as a member of the sand boa family, Erycinae. It certainly resembles the sand boas but, unlike them, produces eggs and lives in moist habitats. The Calabar Ground Python is at home in tropical West Africa, where it ranges from Sierra Leone to the Central African Republic, Gabon and Congo. Largely nocturnal and fossorial (dwelling below-ground), it frequents moist habitats with plant cover and deep leaf litter, such as wooded lowland river edges, rainforests and plantation edges.

Appearance / health:
The cylindrical shape, tiny eyes and small, blunt head mark the Calabar Ground Python as a highly-skilled burrower. Adults average 2 to 3.5 feet in length. The body is black or brown in color, and marked with irregular, highly-variable blotches of red, yellow or off-white. Its pattern is most unusual, as is the uncanny resemblance that the tail bears to the head. When disturbed, Calabar Ground Pythons raise the tail and wave it about, after which they coil into a tight ball with the head hidden and the tail exposed.

Behavior / temperament:
Calabar Ground Pythons are not comfortable when unearthed from the substrate (although they will wander on the surface if left to their own devices) but usually tolerate gentle handling. They rarely attempt to bite…but there are exceptions to every rule!

A single adult may be housed in a 20 gallon aquarium stocked with 6-8 inches of cypress mulch and sphagnum moss, or similar substrates. These secretive snakes will also utilize standard hide boxes, but these should be small as body contact with the walls seems essential to their well-being. One box should be stocked with moist sphagnum moss. Some individuals will remain beneath a piece of glass laid atop the substrate, and so may be easily observed. The tank’s screen lid should be secured by cage clips. Red or black reptile night lights will assist in nighttime observations, when Calabar Ground Pythons leave their underground retreats. The substrate should be moistened daily, but should not remain damp. Ambient temperature: 74-77 F. Basking temperature: 82-86 F. A sub-surface heat pad may be used to create the basking site.

Droppings should be removed as they appear. Humidity may be maintained at approximately 50%, but this is not critical as long as the substrate is misted daily and a water bowl is available. Nearly all Calabar Ground Pythons offered for sale have been wild-caught, and therefore should be examined by a veterinarian.

Calabar Ground Pythons prey upon small burrowing mammals such as moles, shrews and mice. Like many fossorial snakes, they can expertly “pin down” and constrict several small animals at once, a skill that comes in handy when raiding underground rodent nests. The jaws of the Calabar Ground Python are not well-suited to swallowing large meals. Most keepers report that young rodents – pink or fuzzy mice and rat pups – are the preferred foods, even where adult snakes are concerned.

Virtually nothing is known of their breeding habits in the wild, and captive reproduction is, unfortunately, quite rare. Clutches generally contain only 3-5 eggs, and are usually produced by females that had mated in the wild. Hatching may occur in 50-60 days at 82 F, but much more research is needed.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

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