The Ceylonese Python
Species: Python molurus pimbura.
The Ceylonese python, as the name suggests, is endemic to Sri Lanka.
The Ceylonese python occurs in a wide range of habitats, including tropical rainforests, open woodlands, even mountains. The python prefers damp areas. It is a terrestrial species but the python can climb trees as well. It is a good swimmer and swims even in salty water. It can live near residential areas, sometimes these pythons are kept at home to hunt rodents instead of cats.
The size of an adult python varies from 2.5 to 4 m, it is the smallest subspecies of the Indian pythons. There are no major differences between sexes, although females are slightly bigger and heavier than males.
The Ceylonese python reminds of the Indian python. It has a reddish head and bright contrast coloration.
Males and females have similar size and coloration. Males have long tails that are thicker at the base; females’ tails are shorter and without thickening. Also males have distinct tarsal claws (rudimental limbs) on the sides near cloaca. Females don’t have them as visible.
Like all pythons, the Ceylonese python is docile and peaceful if it is raised in captivity.
This species is not venomous; it squeezes its victims in coils.
Wild-caught pythons are more aggressive than the ones bred in captivity.
The Ceylonese python needs a large horizontal tank, the size of 100х60х60 cm. It is best to put on the bottom a heat cord or a heat mat. For substrate you can use bark or coconut husks. Never use cedar bark, it is dangerous for snake. The python can be kept without substrate, on a mat with artificial grass or even on newspapers. In this case you will also need a box with sphagnum – a so called damp chamber. Also you should put in the enclosure a very large bowl with water for the python to fit in. This will help its shedding process. The water has to be changed daily. You will also need big logs for the python to climb. The Ceylonese pythons should be kept alone.
For keeping smaller Ceylonese pythons you can use plastic box for clothes or any other plastic enclosures. Glass tanks are also suitable for smaller specimens. But you have to take into account that it can be difficult to maintain the humidity and correct temperature in tanks that are covered from above. Small pythons shouldn’t be kept in large tanks, it stresses them.
There must be a temperature gradient in the enclosure: a basking area in one corner and a colder area in another.
The ambient temperature has to be around 25 – 26°C at nights and between 30 and 33°C at daytime. The temperature in the basking spot can reach 35°C; such temperature can be achieved by using a reflector or a heating lamp.
The air humidity should be around 70%, so you will have to mist daily.
The python needs about 14 hours of light a day. It needs a filament lamp and a UV lamp.
The Ceylonese python eats big rats, quails, rabbits. You should feed the python once every 8-10 days in order for it not to overeat. Such limitations will enable you to control the snake’s growth, but remember that if you feed a python too rarely, it will be constantly hungry and it can start considering its owners as food. For your safety never handle the python after you have held a mouse or a rat.
On the other hand, if you feed your python too often (1-2 times a week) it will make the snake grow too fast. So you have to think carefully how quickly you want the python to grow.
Young snakes should be fed more often, they mostly eat mice. Calcium supplements and vitamins are required.
If you make a decision to keep such a large snake, you should assess all the possible risks. You have to plan ahead the safety of the premises where the python will be kept.
Pythons require a large tank and a lot of food; they can be dangerous for people, especially for children.
Wild-caught pythons are much more aggressive than bred in captivity; you should take it into account when acquiring a python.
The pythons are susceptive to a lethal disease called Retrovirus (IBD). The snake becomes sluggish, lethargic, it stops eating and then dies.
If the snake refuses to eat, it can be caused by stress, unsuitable food, or it can happen that the snake just is not hungry. You should not try and force the food into the snake: they can live without food for a long time without any damage for their health. You should only start worrying if your snake doesn’t eat for several months. Then you need to analyze its living conditions and the menu prior to this situation. In worst case you might need to force-feed the python.
The snake can vomit because of stress, illness or if the prey was too big. Also it can vomit if it was fed during shedding or if the temperature in its enclosure is not suitable. After vomiting you mustn’t feed the snake for 7-10 days, and then you can offer it food taking into account the previous mistakes.
Shedding is not a disease, it is a necessary step in the snake’s growth. Its eyes get milky, their color grows paler and the skin starts coming off. During this time you should be extra careful about the humidity and clean water in the enclosure.
Mites are small parasites that live on the snake’s skin. They stick on the snake’s body between the scales and suck its blood. This can make the snake lethargic and it can turn down the food. To get rid of mites you need to use the weak solution of the same medicine which is used against ticks on cats and dogs. You will also have to disinfect the whole enclosure.
Respiratory diseases are usually caused by potentially pathogenic bacteria if the immune system of the snake doesn’t function properly either due to a stress or to unsuitable living conditions. The symptoms include gasping, open mouth, runny nose. These diseases are treated by the injections of antibiotic called Baytril.
The Ceylonese python is sexually mature at the age of 4 years old. It is an egg-laying species. For successful breeding you will need to organize a brumation period. In order to do this you will have to gradually decrease the number of hours of light and the temperature in the tank. When you get down to 8 hours of light, you can stop feeding the snakes, take away water and switch off the heating for the night. When you are down to 4 hours of light, you can switch off the heating completely. The brumation period lasts for 1-2 months; then you can gradually return the snake to its normal conditions.
After brumation the pythons should be fed extensively and a male and a female can be put together. The copulation usually lasts from 2 to 5 hours. 60 – 155 days later the female lays 8 to 110 eggs. You should install in the enclosure a chamber for eggs with damp sphagnum. The female stops eating, checks the clutch, ventilates it and gets rid of bad eggs. Also it maintains the necessary temperature. It may leave the clutch for a while, but usually it doesn’t happen. If the female doesn’t stay in eggs, they have to be put in an incubator. The eggs are incubated under the temperature of 30-32 degrees. 55-85 days later hatchlings come out. They can be fed after their first shedding.
Average life span is up to 25 years.