Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Species of the Day: Amazon Tree Boa
Scientific Name: Corallus hortulanus
Adult Size: Averages 4 1/2 feet long; occasionally attains 6 to 7 feet in length
Range: Predominantly in Amazonian South America east of the Andes to the Atlantic coast; from central Venezuela, eastern Columbia and the Guyana Shield countries in the north to central Bolivia and central Brazil in the south; in forested eastern Brazil the range extends far southward
Habitat: Besides typical rain forest habitats, this mainly arboreal species also occurs in drier forests and in many grassland habitats. Often seen resting in trees over-hanging rivers
This Amazon tree boa was overlooked by many reptile enthusiasts for quite a while do to their moody dispositions. Despite this, they are one of the most beautiful display species available in the hobby. Rarely will you see a species that exhibits the divers array of colors and patters that you see in Corallus hortulanus. Once you get around their raspy personality you'll be pleasantly surprised by the relative intelligence displayed by these snakes as well as the ease and rewards associated with proper maintenance. Although they are notorious nippers, a tame Amazon tree boa is not unheard of as many babies can easily be accustomed to handling is enough time is spent with them. Often referred to as the poor man's emerald tree boa, the Amazon tree boa makes a great starter before segueing into the larger, and equally sour tempered emerald tree boa. Their care requirements are basically the same, once you've master these guys you should have no problem moving on to the bigger boys.
Amazon tree boas differ from their larger cousins in that they are not strictly arboreal in nature. It is not at all uncommon for Amazons to spend more than half of its time on the cage floor. In an emerald tree boa this could be a cause for concern but in the case of the Amazon this is normal behavior. However, they should not be spending all their time on the cage floor. The main reason for an Amazon tree boa spending too much time on the cage floor is that the perches may be inadequate. Unlike emerald tree boas that will utilize horizontal perches, the Amazon likes to have contact on at least three points of its body, which means it prefers forked branches versus just one horizontal perch. Simply putting a multi-branched piece of a tree in the enclosure will keep your snakes happy. As far as cage space goes height is more important that floor space. A cage that's at least 24 inches high, 36 inches wide and 24 inches deep would be the minimum space requirement for a pair of Amazons. As far as cage furnishings go, live and/or plastic plants can look very nice and can be utilized by the snakes as resting spots. Live plants along with naturalistic substrates can help maintain proper humidity, but take care when feeding your Amazons around these decorations. These snakes have quite an aggressive feeding response and may accidentally ingest some of it.
Temperatures within the range of 76 to 84 degrees F are ideal for this species, with the ambient humidity being 65 to 70%. Of course babies will need a much higher ambient humidity, as will adults that are in the shedding process. But be sure to try and keep a happy medium, as long-term high humidity can encourage fungal growth that can possibly infect your snakes, and conditions that are too dry can cause respiratory infections and shedding problems. Amazon tree boas usually fall into two categories; they are either picky eaters, refusing almost anything offered, and voracious eaters who will strike at anything that moves. Luckily the bulk of the specimens fund in captivity fit into the latter category. Amazon tree boas are long-bodied, slender snakes and are quite fragile, making pre-killed prey ideal. Small birds make up the majority of an Amazon tree boa's prey in the wild, but captive specimens will accept small rodents, feeder frogs and feeder anoles. Care must be taken to not over-feed, as this can lead to impaction. As a rule of thumb, prey items should be only slightly larger than the thickest part of the snake's body. It's best to feed prey items to communally kept Amazons separately, as there have been instances of snakes attacking and killing each other when trying to go for the same prey item. One must also be cautious when housing babies together, as there have been quite a few account of cannibalism among communally housed babies. Water should be supplied by way of a large bowl covering about 75% of the cage floor, that way the snakes can utilize it to soak in and help with the shedding process. Daily misting is essential for the health and well being of these snakes and they will often drink the beads of water that collect on their coils as well.