CORALLUS HORTULANUS * AMAZON TREE BOA * TUIN BOA
I always say; “those men have magic balls”. Why not those women?! With Corallus hortulanus, unlike other Corallus species, babies can be born in a whole range of colours. These colours can be entirely different from the parents, so there is no way of predicting the colours of the babies. This species is truly polychrome, or multicoloured, in nature. The various colours do not come from attempts to breed “designer” animals. Babies can be yellow, orange, red, light brown, black, dark brown or mixtures of these, all in one litter. Until you see the babies you won’t be able to predict what is going to be born. Some fancy morphs, such as “Red Hot” and “Tiger” are now being sold at high prices, but it is not yet certain whether they will breed true. These are fascinating and splendid animals, which are a good introduction to keeping snakes from the Corallus genus, as they are relatively hardy and undemanding in their requirements. Yes, they do like to bite! In fact, the animals we have are extremely reliable, they nearly always bite! Other keepers of this species have reported that their animals are not so keen to bite. Perhaps they handle them more.
This is a primarily arboreal snake, although it will often spend the day coiled up on the ground in a safe hiding place. Although it is present in high numbers in the wild, it is always difficult to find. Its distribution area is the Amazon; Guyana, Surinam, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. There are also some island races in the Caribbean, which can have unique patterning. They range from sea level up to 3,000 meters altitude, and show many different bio types. They can be found in jungles, gardens, plantations and by rivers. Their adaptability to a range of conditions is what helps them settle into captivity so well. They are particularly active at twilight and the early part of the night, when they make use of their heat sensing pits to find food animals.
Our animals are housed separately, which helps if you need to handle them for any reason. They can reach a length of almost 2 meters, by which time they are very strong snakes. The most usual length is about 1 meter 60 cm. We use peat as the substrate, with all the advantages we have described in the section on C. caninus. For perches for the animals we use PVC tubes of 40 mm diameter, put together with “T” pieces to make a frame. Make sure you cap the ends of the tubes off to stop the snakes crawling into the tubes and causing all sorts of problems. Damaged or dead animals can be the consequence of uncapped tubes. The frame is not glued together, so dismantling it for cleaning is easy. We use 30 litre buckets with hot water and chlorine to sterilise the tubes, then wash them well with clean water afterwards. We do not dry the tubes as this happens in the terrarium and helps to increase the humidity. Water for drinking must also be provided. We use glazed pottery bowls. Our hortulanus also live in our snake room, so are subject to the same fluctuating temperatures as the other snakes. They are, however, less sensitive to variations in temperature and humidity, so are easier to keep. Don’t let the temperature drop too low, though, or they will have difficulty digesting their food before it rots in their stomach. They may also need elevated humidity when they are coming up to a shed. If they do not shed properly they can be put into a high humidity box to help them shedding off the old skin. The box should have warm water and some sawdust in it, and not be any deeper than the animal is wide. The snake should be kept in the box for 24 hours, during which time they should shed. Check that the eye caps have been shed by looking at the sloughed skin.
This species is generally not difficult to feed. They will catch anything which is warm and moves! Like other species within this genus they may show a preference for live food. They have an enormous gape so a semi-adult rat will easily be taken by fully grown snake. Unlike Emerald tree boas they do not suffer problems with regurgitation syndrome, so large food items can be offered. Once they have fed it is important to keep the temperature and humidity right to allow them to digest the food. Occasionally you may find an elongated hairball in the cage. This is undigested fur, not regurgitated food. If the snake does vomit partially digested prey you will smell it immediately. This is a sign of a potentially serious problem, such as flagellates or an intestinal infection. Consult your vet immediately.
For a few months during winter we cool the terrariums down some degrees. In February we put the female into the male’s cage. After a week the female is moved another male. This second male is able to detect the scent of the first male, stimulating him to mate. We repeat this several times. Although this does not guarantee a successful pairing, it increases the chances. Generally, though, this species is not difficult to breed. After a pregnancy of about 7 months the female gives birth to live young, although dead babies and slugs (infertile eggs) can also be produced. Check the mother after several days to make sure all the babies have been born. You can do this by feeling her abdomen with the tip of your finger. Finding live babies in the terrarium is the reward for providing the correct care. Coloured babies are the most popular and the most expensive, but you won’t know what you are going to get until they are born. Prices range from 75 to 200 Euro, depending on how the babies look. Getting the babies to feed can sometimes be problematic, so everything possible should be tried. Mice, hamsters or rats of the appropriate size should be tried, as should dwarf quail and lizards. Food should be tried both live and dead. Once the babies have fed 3 times they should no longer be a problem and will be like dustbins, taking everything you offer them. Once you have started breeding hortulanus you will then want to keep the best looking babies for yourself to build into a beautiful collection.