Madagascar Giant Hog-nosed Snake

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Is the Madagascar Giant Hog-nosed Snake right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Malagasy Hog-nosed Snake

Scientific name: Leioheterodon madagascariensis

The basics:
The Madagascar Giant Hog-nosed Snake is the largest of the world’s hog-nosed snakes, so named for their distinctive, upturned snouts. It is, like many of the creatures that share its home, endemic to Madagascar and its associated islands, Nosy Be and Nosy Sakatia. An introduced population is established on Comoro Island. This active, impressive snake inhabits grasslands, sparsely-wooded savannas, forest edges, farms, and village outskirts. Two slightly smaller, related species are also limited to Madagascar.

Appearance / health:
At first glance, it is tempting to conclude that this species is related to the Hog-nosed Snakes of North and South America. Like them, it is heavily-built, yellowish tan to brown in color, and marked with brown to black blotches. It also shares their taste for toads and reptile eggs, which it digs up with the help of its upturned, pig-like snout (rostral scales). When cornered, the Madagascar Giant Hog-nosed Snake even puts on the same impressive defensive display used by its American namesakes. However, the two groups seem to be an amazing example of parallel evolution (adaptations to similar conditions) rather than close relatives. Adults average 4-5 feet in length, but appear larger due to their impressive girths.

Behavior / temperament:
Madagascar Giant Hog-nosed Snakes are rear-fanged, and produce mild venom that is used to overcome their prey. They are not considered to be dangerous to people, but cautions must be exercised by keepers, and the possibility of allergic reactions should be considered. When threatened, they put on a most theatrical display, flattening the body and hissing loudly, after which they may roll over and feign death. They do not often attempt to bite, and usually calm down and accept gentle handling. However, individual dispositions vary, and hungry snakes may strike at nearby movements.

Madagascar Giant Hog-nosed Snakes are quite active, and do best in spacious terrariums. Youngsters may be accommodated in 20 gallon aquariums, while adults should be provided a tank or custom-built cage measuring at least 5-4 feet x 4 feet. As they are natural burrowers, cypress mulch, eucalyptus bark and similar materials are preferable to newspapers as substrates. A dry cave should also be provided. The enclosure’s screen lid must be secured by cage clips. Ambient temperature: 80-85 F; basking temperature: 90 F.

Due to their large size, adult Madagascar Giant Hog-nosed Snakes produce copious amounts of fecal material which must be removed regularly. The enclosure should be misted daily and thoroughly cleaned each 2-4 weeks.

Not nearly as “picky” as North America’s Eastern Hog-nosed Snake, a toad specialist, the Madagascar Giant Hog-nose takes toads, frogs, lizards and their eggs, tortoise and bird eggs, and small mammals with equal gusto. Captive adults readily accept mice and rats, but hatchlings often prefer lizard or toad-scented rodents.

Captive-bred individuals, long scarce, are becoming increasingly available. A winter cooling period of 65- 68 F, with a basking spot of 80 F, may stimulate reproduction. Females produce up to 12 eggs, which hatch after an incubation period of approximately 2 months at 85 F. Hatchlings average 12 inches in length.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

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