Introductory husbandry techniques
There are a number of straightforward ways to maintain this fascinating python in captivity, but it can be a delicate species to work with. Even if you do all of the right things, some Boelen’s pythons will still fail to survive in captivity. That said, I have maintained Boelen’s successfully for over 16 years using the following methods: Keeping the environment simple is the best way to ensure that the snakes will thrive and that they experience minimal stress. Data is changing constantly to help benefit the captive conditions of these snakes so keep checking back for the latest additions to this section.
These snakes are adorned with bright yellow banding, jet coloration and iridescent tinge. They often are referred to as the “Cadillac of Morelia”. They are indigenous to the highlands in the mountains of Papua New Guiana, and West Papua. Boelen’s pythons maintain an enigmatic life in the wild; they are capable of surviving over twenty years in captivity.
Availability. Boelen’s pythons are still considered a high profile snake in captive collections. Within the last few years S. boeleni has become more available to private collectors and zoological facilities. This is a result of an abundance of imported babies. The Boelen’s python continues to be the most protected reptile in PNG, and they are fiercely regulated in West Papua New Guinea. Wild caught adult animals are not permitted to be exported out of New Guinea.
Boelens python size:
Hatchling Boelen’s pythons commonly measure 12 - 20 inches in length. Adults from western populations are lean and muscular; often reaching 8 - 10 feet long. Eastern populations have been described as exhibiting a superior build, and lengths well into the 14-foot range, however this has never been confirmend or correctly documented. A distinction for size comparison among male and female animals has not been reported.
Boelens python life span:
At present there is no data pertaining to the longevity of this species in the wild. The source of our knowledge about the lifespan of this python has been collected from captive records and accounts. Currently, twenty-23 is the longest recorded age of a Boelen’s python in captivity; and that animal still is alive.
Boelens python caging:
There are several reliable companies that offer large snake cages that can easily accommodate your needs. Always make available a large bowl of fresh water daily, a hide box that can completely shelter the snake from viewing eyes, and a large log or branches for the snake to interact with and to help it when it is shedding. Adult Keep neonates in plastic tubs lined with newspaper. In addition to a source for water, include a hide box, several (crossing) dowel rods and a vigorous leafy plant. Make sure to push small holes around the upper rim of the tub to allow air to enter. You want to ensure that the area remains humid, while avoiding stagnate or moldy air. I utilize an under-heating pad to achieve temperatures of 74°- 85°F (25°- 29°C) in the enclosure and to maintain humidity in the 80’s. I don’t expose neonates or juveniles to very low temperatures. I don’t feel that there is a need for this at this early stage of development.
I also recommend that a full spectrum UV source - not in use for heating - be utilized for a cycle of 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. Frequent misting also is beneficial to ensure that the babies have good sheds and do not dehydrate, but care must be taken not to overly saturate them.You certainly do not want to promote any kind of skin infection or fungus. As they grow in size to the 3 - 4 foot range, I provide over-tank heating elements, while cutting back on the under-tank heating source.
I will allow the basking areas to reach into the upper 80’s° F (26° C) and let the night time temperatures drop into the high 60’s° to low 70’s° F (15.5° to 21°C). Humidity at mid-day should be in the 70-80% range.
Adult snakes require as much room as you can provide. Nothing smaller than a 6 x 2 x3 foot enclosure animals can enjoy basking areas into the 100s° F (37s° C) as long as they have plenty of room to reach cooler areas within their enclosure.
I will allow the basking areas to reach into the upper 80’s°F/32°C and let the night time temps get into the high 60’s° low 70’s°F/ 15.5° to
21°C. Humidity in the peak of the day should
be in the 70-80% range.
Adult snakes require as much room as possible.
Nothing smaller then a 6x2x3 foot enclosure is
recommended for a single animal. You must
allow the animal to be able to completely
stretch out and move freely. There are several
reliable companies on the market that offer
large snake cages that can easily accommodate
your needs. Always make available a large bowl of fresh water daily, a hide box that can completely shelter the snake from viewing eyes and a large log or branches to provide a means for healthy interaction while assisting with sheds. Adult animals can enjoy basking areas into the 100s°F/37°C as long as they have plenty of room to reach cooler areas of their enclosure.
Temperature in other areas of the habitat may range into the mid to high 60°F/15.5°C. Always provide a good U.V source. Substrates for Boelens pythons can be as simple as newspaper or butcher paper. This unfussy material will make it a breeze to collect fecals, and are inexpensive and readily available to purchase. Cypress mulch is another inexpensive substraight, however, you run the risk of the animal getting bedding in its mouth. This type of mulch can be rather rough on the scales if allowed to dry out. If you decide to use Cypress mulch care must be taken to remove the larger pieces and observe your animal carefully.
Boelens python food:
Boelens pythons love to feed. Care must be taken not to overfeed. For babies, I would recommend a feeding regiment that offers a small pre-killed pink mouse or hopper after every fecal, or once per week. Every 8-10 days adults should be offered an appropriate sized pre-killed rodent (or alternating with quail).
Boelens python hydration: Neonates and adults are misted daily in order to sustain proper humidity levels. Care must be taken to not saturate animals. Always provide fresh water daily.
Boelens python handling and temperament: When encountered in the wild Boelens pythons are by nature quite timid. In captivity they demonstrate an inquisitive intelligence. Some individuals are eager to venture out of their enclosures, while others will allow for mild interactions or prefer to be left alone. I encourage that you interact with your snakes. This type of familiarity with your scent will make it easier to service the enclosure or exhibit, as well as when you need to examine the animal. I would not engage in a prolonged handling session but I do recommend trying to remove the animal or animals on a weekly basis to accustom them to a routine.
All images are Copyright by Ari R Flagle 2022