THE JUNGLE JOURNAL & GALLERY
One page, two purposes. Aside from the obvious, a gallery of various images of our jungles, this section is set aside for blog-style entries related to all things JCP. Topics may include anything from basic husbandry to propagation, from purity issues and accurate representation to the status of jungles in the hobby and marketplace. A work in progress...
Jungles: A "Beginner" Species?
A Brief Look at Temperament and Husbandry
by Andrew Paris
One of the most common questions I hear from those looking into carpet pythons is, "Are they a good species for beginners?" What's really meant by that question? It can usually be broken down into two parts: Temperament and Husbandry. People are typically asking if jungles are difficult and high maintenance, or how manageable their behavior is for a novice. Their needs are very straight forward and their behavior and temperament are not unlike other popular species in the hobby. In this brief entry, I will be referring specifically to jungle carpet pythons (Morelia s. cheynei) as JCPs, and will go over husbandry requirements and behavior of the species, answering the most common questions I receive from customers.
"Are they easy to tame?"
It's better for both the keeper and python to avoid bites. The question above is extremely common, but needs to be rephrased, in my opinion. The word "tame" assumes something is domesticated, or its natural instincts are broken, like what is done with juvenile or wild horses. I prefer the word docile. Docile means teachable (from the Latin docere, "to teach"; in English, it often means submissive, obedient, which is not accurate). JCPs can and will learn routines during feeding, handling, enclosure maintenance, and usually learn to tolerate their keepers. With the familiarity of smells, sights and routines over time, the python typically becomes less fearful. Instinctual fear is really at the heart of the matter--eat or be eaten; fight or flight. As hatchlings, JCPs are often defensive. which manifests itself in their behavior as being nippy, flighty, and at times, sometimes even passing feces/urates during handling. Given their small size after leaving the egg, they are a common and easy prey item for other reptiles, birds, fish and mammals, so such behavior is understandable. Generally, the defensiveness wanes with age and most adults become fairly placid. Intermittent handling often helps the process and python along, but isn't necessary. I rarely handle my jungles for the sake of handling alone. Usually, it's during health checks and enclosure maintenance (fresh water, cleaning, etc.) that they're handled. Even so, most of my adults are very laid back. As for the hatchlings, I prefer them to be a bit defensive and nippy, as this usually translates to getting them feeding quicker.
Most bites that occur are usually due to one of two things. The first is perceived threat, which was briefly touched on above. The second is their incredible "food response". For the most part, carpet pythons are eager feeders, ready at a moments' notice to strike out and grab their next meal. Consequently, this is where the label (and myth) of "cage aggression" often comes in. It's not a matter of aggression, anger or defensiveness at all in these cases. It's about hunger and instinct. For this reason I recommend purchasing a snake hook. Given they're usually in food mode, opening the enclosure and first introducing a non-animate object, the snake hook, rather than a warm-blooded mammalian arm and hand is better for the snake and keeper. Lightly touching the python with the hook first, lifting a coil with the hook and gently bringing it to the hand to remove the python from the enclosure with hook and hand is ideal. It's amazing to witness the behavior change-- like a switch flipped. The snake, upon my approaching the cage, unlocking and opening, will often be immediately aware, curious, and even reaching toward the enclosure door. The hook often switches off that response as they realize it's not food. Once out, my jungles know it's not time to feed. How? Because I tong-feed them while they're in their enclosures, and they learned the routine. "Free handling" the python becomes much easier once hooked out of the cage. There are, of course, those individuals that are less predictable, and/or are more difficult to "switch off" of food mode. Nonetheless, once again, understanding their natural behavior and working with it increases the snake's perception of safety, reinforces routine and familiarity, and decreases the likelihood of a bite occurring.
One final consideration should be made before moving from temperament to husbandry. Even if all the above is followed, one must remember that much like dogs, birds, etc., there is variation of behavior and temperament even within the species. Individual pythons do differ. Some will be "puppy dogs", easily handled and more tolerant of handling. Others remain more calculating, flighty or aggressive into adulthood, and of course, the vast majority fall somewhere in between. All in all, most carpet python species, jungles included, do mellow out in adulthood.
"Are they easy to keep?"
Inherent in that question are usually these... Are they high maintenance? Hardy or fragile? Easy to feed? Believe it or not, these questions are even easier for keepers and breeders to answer than the "taming" question. A resounding "yes" can be given in this case. Jungle carpet pythons are, indeed, easy to keep.
Jungle carpet pythons are a small to mid-sized species. Adult females in my collection range between 5.5 to 7 feet, while adult males are typically between 4.5 to 6 feet. Given they're not heavy-bodied snakes like blood or ball pythons, that 4 to 7 feet feels smaller and more manageable.
Obesity is all too prevalent in carpet pythons, as with other species, as keepers "power feed" their snakes so they can get them to breeding size quicker, or simply because they want their python to grow as large as possible. This of course often leads to health issues and premature death. In captivity, most keepers feed a diet of primarily rodents to their carpet pythons, though they readily accept and enjoy quail and chicks. Hatchlings are usually started on either fuzzy/hopper sized mice or "pinky" rats. Here at Paris Reptiles, hatchlings ideally begin on frozen/thawed pink rats, graduating then to pups, weaned, small, and eventually medium rats. My adult females can and do occasionally eat large rats, but that's mostly situational. For the most part, all my adults eat medium rats. In the beginning, as they grow rapidly in their first year, I feed hatchlings once a week. As they grow, that may space out to 10 days, give or take, for their first year. What changes is the size of the prey item. Adults usually feed on an appropriately sized prey item every 2 to 3 weeks.
Enclosure & Temperature
Types of enclosures people use include home-built (DIY), glass tanks, rack systems with tubs and stackable caging. I prefer professionally built stackable cages that have radiant heat panels controlled by thermostats, but do also use caging and racks with Flexwatt heat tape.
Some keepers take a naturalistic, or "bio-active" approach, including live plants, soil/mulch/leaves with a "CUC" (clean-up crew) of isopods, springtails, etc., to help with breaking down and cleaning up waste, etc. I do not have any personal experience with this route.
My hatchlings are kept in 6qt tubs in hatchling racks. As they grow, they graduate to either larger racks/tubs, or smaller stackable caging. My small adults are kept in 3ft x 2ft x 15" stackable caging. Larger females are kept in 4ft x 2ft x 15" cages. As for substrate, my hatchlings are kept on paper towels. Juveniles and adults are kept on newspaper or craft paper. Either way, dirty areas can be easily seen at a glance, and removal of soiled paper and waste is simple and quick. Many keepers use cypress mulch, coconut husks and various other substrates for their carpet pythons. This allows them to spot clean, rather than necessitating an entire enclosure cleaning.
Proper temperature regulation and gradients are extremely important for these cold blooded creatures. Admittedly, there are a few schools of thought in how to provide the necessary temperatures for carpet pythons and Morelia in general. Some keepers take an approach where there is only an ambient temperature of between 78 to 82 degrees or so (no "hot spots"). Others go with more of a gradient in temperature, which would, in theory, allow the snake to choose when and how to thermoregulate. I've adopted the latter position, but mostly out of past experience. In general, a "hot spot", or basking area, is kept around 88 degrees. I let the cool end of the cage fall where it may, usually somewhere above room temp, between 74 and 82 or so. This gradient in temperature allows the python to thermoregulate themselves, transitioning between warmer and cooler areas in the enclosure as needed (i.e. during digestion, etc.).
When the temperatures DO differ from above? In the cases of cooling/cycling for breeding, or in night drops (dropping the hot spot/temps by several degrees overnight to simulate night time temp drops), which is a matter of preference from keeper to keeper.
Water & Humidity
An appropriately sized water dish with fresh water is critical for the health and well-being of your animal. Humidity is a relative non-issue with most carpet pythons, and jungles are no different. The humidity level in most homes across the nation is perfectly adequate most of the time. If the snake has a moderately sized water dish at all times with fresh water (which will raise the humidity level in the cage) and can keep themselves properly hydrated, there are normally no issues. Some keepers will lightly mist the enclosure prior to their snake shedding if they've noticed their humidity levels have sometimes resulted in pieces of stuck shed, etc. Beyond a helpful mist here and there during the shedding process, no additional humidity is usually needed. In fact, excess humidity and moisture has the potential to cause far more issues, including blistering, infection, bacteria growth, etc.
Hides & Accessories
Aside from an appropriately sized water dish with fresh water, the next most important element inside their enclosure will be a place to retreat, hide and feel secure. An appropriately sized hide box will feel somewhat snug to the snake, with just enough room to move around in comfortably. I place a hide box on the warmer end of the cage (sometimes one on the cooler end as well for another option). If they're not inside, my adults are often on top, basking under the radiant heat panels. Remember, if the snake is secure, they are far more apt to thrive in captivity. The basking area doubles as a place to perch. Carpet pythons are semi-arboreal, and are thus as content on the ground as they are in the branches. If you do use branches, just make sure the branch, shelf or whatever is used as a perching area is strong and securely fixed, for the safety of the python. There is variance between individuals as well, as some prefer the ground or their hide, while others prefer to perch.
Believe it or not, that's it! Jungle carpet pythons are fascinating and wonderful pythons for novices and veterans alike. Given their hardiness and ease of acclimation to captivity, their captivating beauty as they perch, making wonderful display animals, and their manageable size and attitude, it's easy to see how JCPs have enjoyed such growth in the hobby in recent years.
As always, should you have any additional questions, concerns, or need clarification, please do not hesitate to contact us. We're thrilled to assist you in learning about and successfully keeping this amazing species.
U.S. Jungles: 101
A Brief Primer into Issues of Purity, Lineage, & Accurate Representation of Morelia s. cheynei in U.S. Collections
by Andrew Paris
Most people have heard the saying, "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck". Though this adage may apply to some things, it certainly does not apply to jungle carpet pythons. Carpet pythons as a whole are enjoying an uptick in the hobby currently, with more people than ever asking questions, learning and picking out their first carpet python. This post is written first and foremost for them. It's not intended to be exhaustive, but a rather, the footnotes to a crash course in the muddled mess that has become of the genetic pool here in America for jungles. If reading this sparks questions, curiosity and the desire to learn more, it's well worth it.
For those of us who have kept jungles for years, much of the information and history that has been passed down regarding founding jungles, breeders and lines in Europe and the U.S. has been discussed either in person between breeders and hobbyists at shows, via email, or in the forums online. Jungles in the U.S. have a history with certain founding lines, though they are few. The difficulty in talking about some of the earliest bloodlines and their origins relate to legality issues, given exportation from Australia is illegal at this point, so much is still kept hush-hush, while other information gets lost over the years. The forums now are mostly a ghost town, replaced by a much more impersonal, temporary, superficial system of groups, which are focused more on photos.
Meanwhile, more and more people are being introduced to Morelia, often via the show-stopping black and yellow jungle that caught their eye. These new carpet keepers are not learning from veterans and being fed by the forums on a slow, steady pace. It's more instant-gratification now, more about what the animal looks like and less about what the animal is and where it came from. Fewer people care about issues of purity, lineage and accurate representation because fewer people are exposed to a platform where they can learn.
On the subject of conservation of purity and lines, in the early years of keeping carpet pythons here in the U.S., there were several founding lines of jungles, among other carpet pythons (coastals, diamonds, etc.). Some of the breeders crossed jungles with diamonds and/or coastals. Some kept pure jungle lines intact, and some did both. Some years thereafter, the jag morph appeared on the scene. More breeders began crossing coastals (because of the jag gene) with jungles and diamonds. Today, with many new morphs found in different subspecies, much of the carpet complex has been interbred, designer carpets, with the focus being on the snake's appearance, rather than what's IN it. Today, locating any of the original "lines" presents issues as well. First, most have been crossed with other lines. Secondly, given the legaility aspect mentioned earlier, it's no surprise "paper trails" are nowhere to be found or produced to "prove" purity or from where the initial animals were collected and brought into the country. Thirdly, many of the "old school" breeders, those even with founding stock, didn't keep records or even concern themselves with the purity issue (hindsight is 20/20...).
There are droves of keepers out there who have carpet pythons that have NO idea what they really have, other than a generic carpet python. They may think it's a jungle (because it walks and quacks like a duck!), or a coastal, or an IJ/Papuan carpet, etc., but unless they have solid, reliable information on their animals, there can be no way to know. Sadly, this is happening on a different level with jungles. People post pictures of their jungle (or other carpet) and use the word "pure", just because they were told it is, or because it "looks pure", or simply because they don't understand what pure means (and sadly, in some cases, they don't care about the issues even if they're aware of them). If you're going to say your jungle is "PURE", you need lineage information at every point all the way back to founding animals brought into the country that are widely accepted as pure, with each stop along the way also being pure.
If we as jungle keepers cannot demonstrate that level of purity, just leaving "pure" out of the description, and call it a jungle. Any unknowns, holes in the lineage, etc., and we cannot use "pure" to describe our animals. Some will argue that at this point in the hobby, with jungles, and what's happened with them and other Morelia in the hobby over recent years, that purity doesn't/shouldn't matter anymore. That fact alone is enough to drive the rest of us to demonstrate the value of knowing ancestry and the richness that can be brought to the hobby of keeping jungles by learning, and ultimately and most importantly, preserving these lines, even if doing so requires outcrossing with other "lines" (e.g. crossing Black with Lazik, etc.).
It shouldn't therefore be difficult to appreciate and understand the value of finding what can truthfully, accurately be considered a pure line that is still intact, kept soundly through the years. Proper representation, accuracy (on the part of the seller and the buyer--BOTH should take responsibility), history, courtesy, ethics and etiquette--these things matter.
First, a couple examples of proper, accurate representation, with the first two being from my own collection:
Example 1.) I once had a male jungle in my collection (not posted currently in the Jungle Group page) that "looked" completely like an "old school jungle". His appearance screams jungle. I also happen to know that he is 50% Lazik line. But, his other parent is an unknown jungle. Should one call that jungle a Lazik jungle? Or Lazik line jungle? Can it be called a "pure" jungle? Firstly, one cannot call this male pure, because we don't know lineage on one side at all. Secondly, it would be, in my opinion, risking misinformation or almost misleading to say "Lazik line" if this male is not ALL Lazik. The ACCURATE way to represent him is to say that he is a 50% Lazik/50% unknown jungle (not pure jungle). So, ask yourself, if you currently call your jungle an "X" line jungle... is it ALL "X" line? If you are calling your jungle "pure", can you demonstrate and provide lineage all the way back to founding animals?
Example 2.) I have a jungle in my collection that was sold to me as "Leary x Hare". Both of those breeder names are well known and respected in jungle hobby lore. I don't know WHICH pairings, past the parents and a few of the grandparents, that it came from. Can I accurately call it a "pure" jungle, knowing both breeders kept multiple lines, and Hare, specifically, is known to have kept and bred unknowns (like the infamous "Highlighter male" himself)? Not if I want to accurately represent my jungles. No, I can only call it, "Hare x Leary", not "pure".
And now a third example, but this time the labels and accuracy are questionable:
Example 3.) Let's say we have a newer, trophy quality animal on the scene in the hobby. Let's call him "Mr. Terrific". For the purposes of this example, I'm not even going to say whether or not Mr. Terrific is "pure". Let's say Mr. T has sired a clutch (or several over a few years), and some of his offspring have gone on to breed. And perhaps THEIR offspring are old enough and breeding now. Is it accurate, several generations later, and further removed from Mr. T to call them "Mr. Terrific line jungles" or "Mr. Terrific jungles"? I completely understand the marketing aspect of this, but what concerns me is the accuracy of terms and phrases like this.
Again, the point of this exercise is not to devalue or diminish jungles that cannot be said to be pure, but to catalog and save the integrity of the lines of jungles that ARE pure, and to represent the rest accurately. Accurately representing your jungles (as opposed to willful ignorance or, worse yet, misrepresentation) is not only crucial to keeping pure lines intact, but it is ethical. Call something what it is, not what it is not or what it could be.
I strive to represent all my jungles as accurately as possible and would implore others to do the same.
The purposes of this primer, as I called it earlier, are several: to generate interest, to inform, to start discussion and to preserve what has been handed down to us by passing the baton, so to speak, and for EXPOSURE to these subjects.
I'd love to see more questions and discussion online about certain lines, breeders, localities, etc. I'd love to see more jungle keepers wonder what's IN their jungles, wonder what the background is, or if it even is a jungle (let alone a "pure" jungle). I'd love to see more people care about issues of purity, lineage, and accurate representation.
To aide that purpose, several years ago, I started Jungle Carpet Pythons, U.S. Come check it out for a one-stop-shop for all things cheynei. Check it out at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/609332165780027/
A New Miami Vice:
Birth of the "MIA" Line
by Andrew Paris
If you haven't already read the entry posted above, "U.S. Jungles 101" or aren't aware of the muddled mess and shallow genetic pool for jungle carpet pythons (Morelia s. cheynei) here in the United States, I might recommend reading it for greater context.
In the last few decades, Morelia keepers have seen the already limited number of distinct "lines" of jungles crossed not only with other jungle lines, but with other carpet subspecies. These offspring, often referred to as "crosses" or "mutts", have been sold as jungles throughout the years. As long as the offspring look the part (typically black and yellow, despite much variation), they're sold as jungles and are subsequently plugged into jungle breeding projects. Over the years those crosses have inevitably been bred back to pure jungles, resulting in the watering down of these increasingly scarce lines over the years, and subsequent misrepresentation, whether intentional or not. All too often both buyer and seller don't know what they actually have. The hobby has also seen a major swing toward morphs in recent years, further complicating matters with carpet pythons in general. More carpet python crosses are being produced than ever as keepers combine subspecies to achieve new looks and combinations. In retrospect, the "designer" trend we see today, where appearance is valued over purity and lineage, was an inevitable product of how things have transpired.
If exportation from Australia was still legal, keepers searching for pure jungles could find a steady influx of new blood, but it's been decades since Australia implemented the ban. Even if breeders today are able to locate some of the "old school" lines, what are the viable options moving forward, given the limited genetic pool?
This has been the steadily declining status of jungles in America... but what if I were to say that the genetic pool just got deeper? Not long ago, I would have said that was a pipe dream, but then I received information that would change everything...
In 2010, an incoming shipment from Australia was confiscated at Miami International Airport. Upon seizure, all the wildlife, including Pogona barbata, Antaresia stimsoni and Antaresia perthensis and three jungle carpet pythons became U.S. property and therefore would not be returning to Australia.
*Photo courtesy of Miami International Airport's Facebook page (not my image)
Customs/FWS legally donated what turned out to be two males and a female to a museum locally in Miami, where they were housed separately until 2017, when the board of directors decided to shift the focus to native Florida species, necessitating the parting of all non-native species, and approved the adoption of the three jungles to the herpetologist who was on staff at the time.
The trio was then donated to a private collector (who wishes to remain anonymous) in the U.S. by the herpetologist, with whom he'd had previous contact about other native Florida species for the museum in the past. Given the museum had relinquished the trio as their property when they were adopted by their employee, the herpetologist was free to do with them as he wished.
The private collector has been able to successfully produce them first in 2018, and again in 2019. Thus, the "MIA" (Miami International Airport) line was born.
We are fortunate to be one of just a select handful of breeders in the country to be working with this new line of jungles, with 1.2 joining the ranks.
The future of jungles in America just got brighter.