Posts

red-tailed green ratsnake zoo attraction

She’s Red, Blue & Green All Over

What zoo animal has a blue tongue, green scales, and a red tail?  Our new red-tailed green ratsnake!  The young female snake was approximately one week old when she arrived in November.  She will eventually join the zoo’s adult male red-tailed ratsnake in the Indonesian Rain Forest.

The red-tailed green rat snake’s name is a bit misleading.  Here are some fun facts about these snakes:

  •  Red-tailed ratsnakes are recognizable for their striking green scales and bright blue tongue, not for a red tail.  As the snake develops into adulthood, it may or may not end up with a red tail.  It’s tail could be red, but could also take on a brown, green, gray, or even purplish hue.
  • Despite their name, red-tailed green ratsnakes are more likely to eat a rat than to be mistaken for one.  This species of snake also eats birds and their eggs along with smaller reptiles.
  • They are a non-venomous snake.  They kill their prey by squeezing and suffocating them, a process known as “constriction”.

Red-tailed ratsnakes are native to Southeast Asia, where they are valued as a natural, ecologically-friendly means for rodent control.  As such, this species has been left alone to thrive and is not endangered.

Click on the photos below to enlarge:

reticulated python zoo attraction

How Many Keepers Does it take to Hold a Python?

When Bo the reticulated python got his annual physical last week, it took seven people just to hold onto this unusual patient in the Indonesian Rain Forest.

At 15’ 3” long, Bo is 61 pounds of pure muscle and squirmed mightily to express his displeasure at this visit from the vet. 

Reticulated Python zoo attraction
It took seven zoo keepers to hold Bo during his annual vet exam.

Zoo staffers get their hands on this powerful snake only once a year, so despite Bo’s protests, zoo veterinarians Dr. Joe Smith and Dr. Kami Fox wanted to examine every inch of him (one hundred eighty-three inches, to be exact!) 

Lead snake keeper Dave Messmann held Bo’s head while other keepers and veterinary staff lined up to stretch out the snake.  Keepers inspected Bo’s skin, looking for irregularities in his scales or lumps under the skin. 

Messmann gently held Bo’s mouth open with a rubber spatula so Dr. Fox could examine the snake’s teeth.  A string was run down Bo’s spine to determine his exact length, and Dr. Fox drew blood from Bo’s tail for testing. 

“Bo is a healthy snake,” said Dr. Smith after the exam.  As if he was trying to prove his excellent physical condition, Bo downed a tasty rat immediately after being returned to his exhibit.

New Year, New Babies!

Zoo keepers got a big surprise last month when a tentacled snake in the Indonesian Rain Forest gave birth to seven babies overnight!

Zoo keepers knew that the female snake was pregnant, but weren’t sure when the babies would arrive.  An ultrasound done in December revealed a tangle of little snakes inside the mother.

Dr. Kami Fox, the zoo’s veterinary intern states that the length of gestation and anticipated due date for tentacled snakes is difficult to determine.  “We try to assess how far along they are via ultrasound but rarely do we witness the actual birth.  In this particular case, the snake gave birth during the night and in the morning we observed the new babies.” 

Tentacled snakes are ovoviviparous, which means they produce eggs inside their body, but instead of laying eggs they give birth to live young.  Here’s how it works:  The unborn snakes are nourished via egg yolk (the mother has no placenta), and the eggs hatch prior to birth.  The mother snake then delivers live young.

Tentacled snakes are ambush hunters. According to Zoo Keeper Dave Messmann, “They use their tails to anchor themselves and wait for their prey.”  At this point, the unique tentacles for which the species is named allow the snake to sense vibration from the unsuspecting prey – usually a small fish.  Once the predator becomes aware of its prey it strikes with its mouth.  The strike is lightning-fast, lasting only a matter of milliseconds. 

Baby tentacled snakes begin hunting just hours after birth.  According to Dr. Fox, “The babies come out hungry so we provide size-appropriate fish for them.”

Our veterinary team performed an ultrasound on a pregnant tentacled snake. Click for video.

 

 The only known predator to tentacled snakes is humans.

reticulated python

The Python Weighs In

It’s weigh-in day for Bo, the zoo’s reticulated python, and keepers in the Indonesian Rain Forest have been preparing for the procedure since early morning.

“We start by placing his wooden crate right next to his exhibit,” explains zoo keeper Dave Messmann.  A small hole in the exhibit wall lines up perfectly with the hole in the crate, and Bo can’t resist the dark hiding spot.  He slithers into the crate almost right away.  “Snakes are naturally drawn to dark hiding places,” says Messmann.

With Bo safely in the crate, Messmann and zoo keeper Tim Jedele take the opportunity to completely clean and sanitize the snake’s exhibit.  “Bo is a very active snake, and he knocks over the artificial plants all the time,” says Messmann. 

Once the exhibit is cleaned, Messmann and Jedele weigh the snake – crate and all – on a portable scale.  After subtracting the weight of the empty crate, Messmann calculates that Bo weighs at about 65 pounds – a gain of ten pounds since the snake was last weighed in April, after he arrived from the Children’s Zoo in Saginaw, Michigan

It’s tough to measure the length of a large snake, but Messmann decides to give it a try when Bo is released back into the exhibit.  After a little coaxing, Bo leaves his hiding place and enters the just-cleaned exhibit, conveniently sliding along the window where Messmann has placed a tape measure.  “The tail tip is out!” Jedele calls, and Messmann checks the placement of Bo’s nose against the tape: Fifteen feet, six inches – a gain of about nine inches since Bo arrived.

Bo gets busy checking out (and messing up) most of the work that Jedele and Messmann did that morning in his exhibit.  But it’s Bo’s busy lifestyle that has made him a real crowd-pleaser.  “He likes to climb up the glass and look right at you,” Messmann says.  “It kind of takes people by surprise.”

Messmann is pleased with Bo’s weight gain and growth.  “He is an awesome snake,” Messmann says.  “It’s great to see zoo guests enjoying and learning about him.”

Read more about reticulated pythons.

Click the photos below to view them full screen.

 

Big Snake Makes a Big Move

A new reticulated python named Bo has slithered onto the scene in the Indonesian Rain Forest.

When Bo made his public debut on opening day, he had zoo fans intrigued from the start.  “He is very active and curious for a big snake,” says zoo keeper Tim Jedele.  “All the zoo guests were amazed that he was moving around and looking at them through the glass.”

Bo started out his life as a pet in someone’s home, and the owner later donated Bo to the Children’s Zoo at Celebration Square in Saginaw, Michigan.  When the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo’s resident python, Jed, passed away over the winter and keepers began searching for a new snake, the search led them to Bo, who was rapidly outgrowing the facilities in Saginaw.   “The staff at Saginaw took excellent care of Bo,” says Jedele.  Bo’s Saginaw fans even created a special going-away card and sent it along on his trip to Fort Wayne. 

After Bo’s routine 90-day quarantine period was completed, Jedele and zoo keeper Dave Messmann loaded Bo into a crate and delivered him to the python exhibit in Dr. Diversity’s Rain Forest Research Station.  Bo, who is 15 feet long and weighs 55 pounds, immediately began exploring the trees, pond, and logs in the 20-foot-long display. 

Bo already seems comfortable in his new home in the Indonesian Rain Forest.  “Bo is a perfect fit for our exhibit,” says Jedele.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Portfolio Items