CORALLUS CANINUS * EMERALD TREE BOA * GRUNER HUNDSKOPFBOA
Emerald Tree Boa is a wonderfully appropriate name for this superb jewel of the jungle. In Holland this snake is known as the “dogshead boa” because of the shape of the head. The scientific name, Corallus caninus, refers to the size of the canine teeth, which are amongst the largest in the world for a non-venomous snake. Emerald Tree boas are the ultimate aim of many snake keepers. I am no exception! I can still remember the first time I held these animals in my hands, and then placed them into the terrarium that night. I lay quietly on the couch until 3.00 in the morning, watching them explore the cage and get settled in. They are wonderful snakes, but those caught in the wild have a reputation for becoming sick and dying within a year of being imported. They are sensitive to the smallest disturbance and stress, which can easily cause them problems. Captive bred animals are generally considered to be less sensitive and more suited to captivity. Unfortunately the supply of captive bred babies is limited, and prices for them are often greater than for wild caught animals.
Just like all other species within the genus Corallus these are primarily tree dwellers, only rarely coming down to the floor. They have perfect camouflage, being green with white spots or bars. If you are fortunate enough to be able to search for these snakes in the wild you will look up into the trees but only see them with difficulty. They are hardly recognisable between the green of the leaves and the spots of light where the sun shines through. They coil motionless on branches all day, seeming to disappear. In the wild they will eat anything which passes them by, including small mammals, lizards and birds. Their reflexes are sufficiently fast to allow them to catch birds in flight! Their extremely long teeth in comparison to the other Corallus species may help with this. Without these teeth they would have a mouth full of feathers and the bird would fly away. At night, when it is totally dark, they use their heat receptors to build an infra red picture of their prey to track and capture it. Believe me, it really is very dark. It is difficult to see your hand just 5 cm away! Although most birds and lizards sleep at night, many mammals do not, and are adapted to live in the dark. In the wild you may see, with luck, an Emerald Tree Boa hanging some meters above the ground with its head down in the hunting position. Any food which passes by will be lifted off the ground in a flash, the snake will immediately throw a few coils around it and kill and eat the prey item.
Our animals live in an angled terrarium which is 70x70x100cm. It is near the window in the living room and receives natural daylight. When the sun shines directly into the terrarium you can see colours of the rainbow on the snake’s bodies. It is a really fantastic sight. There are doors on both sides of the terrarium to give easy accessibility without unnecessarily disturbing the animals. It is not advisable to keep these snakes in a busy living room or anywhere which has lots of movement. The substrate in the terrarium is peat. This has the advantage that it holds moisture, releasing it slowly to increase humidity. The use of peat also makes it easy to remove any faeces or urates with a small scoop. Peat is an acidic material, and slightly slows down the growth of bacteria on the cage floor. This is, however, not an excuse for delaying the removal of faeces. Hygiene should always be maintained, and is in the best interest of your animals. We use thick branches of a twisted hazel (Corylus avellana) in the cage. The snakes climb, rest and sleep in these. he diameter of the branches must be the same as the diameter of the snake. Too thin will be unpleasant for the snakes. We also have artificial plants in the terrarium, bought on the Internet from www.fleurstyle-kunstplanten.nl The animals will use these to hide in if they feel they need to. Water is offered in stone bowls of approximately 20 cm diameter and 5 cm deep. The snakes can sometimes be seen drinking droplets from the branches or the artificial plants.
TEMPERATURE AND HUMIDITY
The temperature is regulated using 2 green heat mats made by Thermolux, and a 25 watt reflector lamp. The heat mats are on permanently, and the reflector lamp is controlled by a time switch. The mats are each of a different wattage so the correct temperature can be achieved dependant on room conditions and the time of year. The reflector lamp ensures a hot basking spot, which the animals use as they wish. The daytime temperature varies from 25 to 30 C, and the night time temperature from 15 to 20 C. The humidity is regulated using an ultra sonic humidifier and a time switch. The humidifier fills the terrarium during a half hour period with a thick fog. This gives almost 100% humidity, which will then fall to about 65%. I have consciously chosen not to regulate the humidity automatically, using a hygrometer, as this would give a constant level of humidity. These snakes live high in the treetops, where humidity can show extreme variance due to the influence of wind, sun, rain, day and night temperatures. If the animals do not shed properly for some reason, then we leave the humidifier on for 24 hours. This generally solves the problem. If the animal has still not shed you can put it in a plastic container with a branch to coil over, and with lukewarm water in the bottom. Make sure you get the temperature of the water right, though!
We feed these animals every 3 weeks to a month on mice, rats, hamsters or other small rodents. In nature they will also eat birds, lizards and amphibians. These are easier to digest than mammals, so perhaps we should also be using these occasionally. Do not feed prey which is too large, or there is a chance the snakes will regurgitate. These snakes are well known for suffering from regurgitation syndrome, which is extremely difficult to reverse once started and can prove fatal. Correct temperatures are very important to allow the snake to digest the prey before it rots in its stomach. Correct humidity is also an important aid to digestion. Do not feed too frequently. Many snake lovers are tempted to feed their animals more often than once every 3-4 weeks, and will, of course, feed healthy prey animals. In the wild, however, food will consist of old and sick animals of inferior quality. Also, in the wild more effort must be put in to catch their food, whereas in captivity it is simply given to them. When feeding they will bite hard with their long teeth, very quickly securing their prey in a few coils until it is dead. They will then lift it high using a loop of their body and swallow from below.
We have not bred these snakes yet but, as soon as we have, there will be a new chapter on our website. Please visit it regularly.