Animals / Reptiles

The coastal taipan

Синонимы и названия на других языках

Common taipan 

Küstentaipan (German)

Классификация

Order: squamata

Family: elaoidae

Genus: oxyuranus

Species: Oxyuranus scutellatus

Subspecies: Oxyuranus scutellatus scutellatus, Oxyuranus scutellatus canni.

Ареал

The coastal taipan is native to the northern coast of Australia, including north-eastern Queensland, and to the south-east of New Guinea. The coastal taipan lives mainly found in the woodlands and in scrubs. It is an excellent climber and jumper.

The taipans can be found in a variety of different habitats, in moderate and tropical areas, in the rainforests, in open woods and in grassy areas. In Queensland the coastal taipan often settles in sugar cane plantations where they can find a lot of rodents to eat. Taipans rest in the holes of mammals, in hollow logs and even in rubbish bins which can be very dangerous.

There are two isolated subspecies. The Australian one, Oxyuranus scutellatus scutellatus (can be found in the Northern territory, in the western Australia, in Queensland and in New South Wales).

The other is found on the island of New Guinea,  Oxyuranus scutellatus canni.

Внешний вид

The adult coastal taipan is about 180-190 cm long, and some specimens can even reach 3 m. The largest taipans can weigh about 6.5 kg. This large snake possesses the longest fangs in Australia and very strong venom. 

It is a long and slender snake with smooth scales. It can be light or dark brown; the colour is lighter on the belly. The head is usually also lighter, can be cream-coloured.

Oxyuranus scutellatus canni has some specific traits: most of them have white nose, an orange or a red band on the back that widens on the tail, red eyes, silver or bluish sides with white spots and a unique form of the head with distinct angular brow that make them look so stern.

Australian taipans, Oxyuranus scutellatus scutellatus, look more modest, they have brownish monotonous colour.

Males and females have similar sizes. 

Характер

The coastal taipan is mostly diurnal.

A very venomous snake. Its venom is neurotoxic that effects the nervous system of the snake’s victim. It causes nausea, headache, colvulsions, stomachache. Also the venom of the coastal taipan contains miotoxins that destroy muscular tissues and lead to kidney failure. A human dies about 6 hours after the bite.

This snake is a real plague for rodents: one dose of its venom is enough to kill over a hundred thousand of mice or rats. Rodents die immediately after the bite. 

Содержание и уход

The enclosure for the coastal taipan can be quite small: about 45x20x15 cm, but it has to have a hiding place for the snake that can be safely closed from outside of the enclosure: it will guarantee the safety of the person who will be cleaning the enclosure. The bottom can be covered by a thick layer of coconut cuttings or moss. The snake will also need some branches to climb and a bowl with fresh clean water (has to be changed daily). The coastal taipans have very quick metabolism, so a frequent cleaning is required. Therefore it is not recommended to keep them in plastic boxes: even though the snakes feel good there, they are very inconvenient to clean.

The ambient temperature in the enclosure should be in the range of 22 – 24°C at night and 26 – 28°C at daytime. It can reach 33 degrees in the basking spot. It is best to use the heat pad.

These snakes need a high level of humidity, about 70%, so you will have to mist daily.

The lighting does not matter. 

Кормление

In the wild the coastal taipan eats mainly mammals and birds. Hatchlings eat lizards. Therefore they managed to survive when poisonous cane toads were brought to Australia.

In the captivity taipans are fed 2-3 times a week with mice. They eat 6 mice in one meal; they can be exchanged to a big rat. Mineral supplements and vitamins are a must. When overfed, taipans can regurgitate their food and it is highly undesirable. If their enclosure is not big enough, taipans can get obese even with normal food portions. 

Особенности

The coastal taipan is very venomous and dangerous.

It ranks third in the list of the most venomous snakes on the Earth, coming after Australian brown snakes and inland taipan.

It is agile and aggressive-

It is strongly not recommended to keep it at home.

The coastal taipan normally bites only with venomous fangs and it doesn’t try to hold on to its victim. 

Болезни

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. You should never try to force-feed the taipan, it is very dangerous.

The taipan 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. 

Разведение

The coastal taipan doesn’t normally breed in the captivity. It is an egg-laying species.

The mating period normally happens from August to December. At this time males are aggressive towards each other and fight for females.

Females lay up to 20 eggs. The incubation period normally lasts 60-80 days with the ambient temperature within the range 25-30 degrees. Hatchlings are about 30-50 cm long; in the captivity they eat new-born mice. They grow very quickly; males become sexually mature at the age of 16 months, and females – at the age of 28 months. During the first 7 months of their lives taipans become 7 cm longer each month.

Average life span in the captivity - 10-15 years.

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