The Garden City Telegram
11/16/2012
SOUTHWEST LIFE

Green tree python makes debut at the zoo

Garden Citians' love to keep up on what is going on at their zoo, and as a result, whenever I or other staff people are out in public, we are frequently asked "what's new at the zoo?" Mostly they want to know if we have any new animals or babies, or how our latest exhibit is progressing. Because of the expense of developing a brand new exhibit to house a new species, it's not often that we add an animal that is totally new to our collection, but now and then it does happen, and this is one of those occasions!

A green tree python recently debuted in a new exhibit in the Nocturnal Building at Wild Asia. Although fairly petite at the moment, this beautiful snake has the potential to grow to six feet long. Adult green tree pythons are one of the easiest pythons to identify because of their brilliant green color, but juveniles actually range from yellow to red at hatching. Some adults are yellow rather than green, but most individuals have a smattering of white or yellow spots along their back. Juveniles attain their green coloring between 6 and 12 months of age.

The exhibit is located just inside the entrance to the nocturnal building where our pygmy slow loris family lives. It features a small waterfall, live tropical plants and lots of branches for climbing. To accommodate the snake's nocturnal lifestyle, the exhibit is dimly lit with red bulbs to allow public viewing while simulating night-time hours when the snake is most likely to be active.

One interesting adaptation of this species is their feeding style. Green tree pythons have a tendency to drape themselves over a branch like a coiled rope and hang motionless, and they prefer to do this from the highest perch they can reach. They situate their head in the middle of the coils, and entice prey closer by wiggling their tail. When prey approaches, the waiting python strikes out, grabs the prey with their mouth and quickly subdues it through constriction.

Although the keepers provided a wide array of branches from which to drape, our snake has decided she prefers to wrap around a mister nozzle that protrudes from the roof of the exhibit. So if you go in search of this new arrival, look up! Eventually, she will become too large for the mister and will take up residence on the provided branches, or so we hope.

Green tree pythons are found in forests in the New Guinea region, and on a small peninsula on the extreme northern shore of Australia. Young pythons dine on small skinks and geckos (think lizards), while adults feed primarily on rodents.

The addition of this interesting species adds both a new species to our collection, as well as a new species of snake for the enjoyment our guests who are fascinated by this particular life form. Plan some time to walk off the excesses of your Thanksgiving feast at the zoo and stop in to see this new arrival. And while you are here, check out the progress in Cat Canyon, just south of the Wild Asia exhibit. Remember we are closed on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, but will be open regular hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) on Wednesday and Friday. Guests in the zoo at 4:30 p.m. closing may stay until 5 p.m.

And from our zoo family to yours, have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and know that all of us here at the zoo are very thankful for the wonderful community support we receive which helps to keep Lee Richardson Zoo beautiful, affordable and always improving.

Visit our website at www.leerichardsonzoo.org.