Pet Gazette DECEMBER 2018 - Page 20

20 | PET GAZETTE | REPTILE decently sized viv with a single animal. I think, if we are very honest, we can all agree it is far better in terms of overall welfare and physical animal health to keep what can be an active and mobile animal within an enclosure that allows it to display such a level of behaviour than it is to restrict its movement, keep it in the dark and to be fed in a reduced space that cannot inspire any form of prey location. Can they be kept and bred in reduced sized enclosures? Yes, this is proven. Should they? That is the question that we need to ask ourselves now. There is a huge move away from reduced sized enclosures in the wider hobby with keepers of great experience and those being new to the hobby seeing the benefits, especially with fit, healthy, captive bred snakes. In fact, one of the most common statements that I see, especially in the Royal Python keeper’s social media groups is: “I am shocked, I never knew this species would be so active nor spend so much time in the branches basking.” It is good to be shocked, it means that we are all learning something. For far too many years a mistruth has been told regarding the Royal Python. That being it is a nocturnal species that spends all of its time underground or living in termite mounds, never to venture out, and that they will not feed if given space, will suffer terrible respiratory tract infection if kept in humid environments and will eventually die off. All of the above is of course total tosh. The correct method of keeping a Royal is to mimic what is found in the country of origin and to then design an enclosure that allows it to display a level of activity as seen in the wild. This is a species that occurs in scrub and grassland areas, is found basking by day, is commonly found in bushes and the lower reaches of trees, does have a system of burrows in which it finds safety from predators and the searing heat of the African sun during the peaks of the day. This is a sun rich, hot and humid area that becomes extremely humid at night and in the burrows. These snakes will forage and hunt and move to defecate and breed. Males may be more active than females especially when gravid. They do not suffer with impaction, nor do they refuse to feed and nor is respiratory tract infection (RTI) an issue. RTI is - I believe - linked to raised humidity in poorly ventilated, reduced sized enclosures in captivity, especially those made from plastics. It is good airflow that keeps the air and water borne bacterial load low. Couple this with what I believe to be a weakening of the respiratory tract and the immune system due to long term exposure to oil-based VOCs from heated plastics, we have created a hostile environment and an animal that is impeded from fighting its own battles. Heat mats placed under or inside of a tub will superheat the plastic, the fumes from this heated plastic (VOCs) rise into the tub and with the terrible airflow that is common the toxins remain in the tub to become a long term addition to the respiratory gases. Infection sets in which further reduces the animal’s health in an ongoing cycle. The animal is treated, and the infection goes, but only until the bacterial levels increase again and the whole December 2018