Important factors to consider before buying a reptile
Snake Ranch encourages responsible pet ownership. Reptiles have very different requirements to those of most traditional pets and you will need to consider a range of issues before acquiring a python. Without preparation and commitment, the novelty factor may soon wear off with the likely outcome being a neglected animal and a disappointed owner.
Beginners who do not have a copy of the comprehensive Care of Australian Reptiles in Captivity by John Weigel are urged to obtain and read a copy before jumping into the hobby. It is available from the ‘Gift Shop’ at the Australian Reptile Park, or can be ordered by emailing us at Snake Ranch.
Reptile keeping is regulated in every Australian state and territory
Reptile keeping in Australia is a privilege, not a right. The trade and keeping of reptiles is regulated on a state-by-state basis, and the laws are subject to change. In most instances, licences must be applied for before a reptile is obtained, and records must be kept, with annual returns required. All reptiles must be acquired from a legitimate source; there are constraints as to which species can be kept and in what circumstances. Therefore, the very first thing to do when considering acquiring a reptile is to familiarise yourself with the legal requirements within your state or territory. The following links lead to the relevant wildlife agencies for each state and territory: NSW, Vic, Qld, SA, ACT, WA, NT, and Tas.
Reptiles are not cuddly
they’re above all that fluffy stuff! Although most reptiles may become tolerant of some forms of handling, they are not affectionate animals and do not crave human contact. If a companion animal is what you are after, then maybe you should get a homeless dog from the pound.
Although captive pythons are not inherently ‘aggressive’ towards their keeper, they can be quite defensive when feeling threatened or territorial, and many will bite. Sometimes, there’s a fine line between ‘protective behaviour’ and outright attack! Many pythons become very food-oriented and will bite just about anything that moves – including the keeper’s hand. When that happens, it can take a great deal of time and patience (and blood!) to dislodge the hungry python without injuring it.
Young pythons will grow – and before any hatchling is acquired on the basis of ‘cuteness’, an adult specimen of the species should be viewed.
Show-offs don’t last
A small proportion of beginners acquire their first reptile for the wrong reasons: wildlife should never be maintained for the purpose of impressing friends, undertaking a practical joke of any sort, or providing an unplanned, unsolicited gift for anyone. Reptiles do not benefit from being carried around like an article of jewellery at the local shopping centre. Their use as an attention-seeking prop or as a demonstration of bravado shows no regard by the keeper for the animal. Irresponsible keepers undermine community respect for wildlife while portraying the hobby in an exploitative light. Fortunately, the show-off type of keeper usually moves on to other pursuits within a relatively short time.
Reptiles can pass diseases on to their keepers
Without adequate attention to hygiene, reptile keepers can put themselves and others at risk of infection from a range of protozoa and bacteria, including Salmonella sp.
Keeping a reptile can be costly
The expense incurred in the purchase of a python is only the beginning of the costs that will have to be met – the most ‘up front’ of these being appropriate specialised caging, which needs to be 100% ready upon arrival of the Snake Ranch hatchling. Provision of food requires planning, and can be costly. The keeper will need to either maintain a breeding colony of rodents, or purchase frozen stock from a commercial source. In some families, it may be necessary to have a separate dedicated freezer to store rats and mice. Licensing fees are a factor in most states, and significant veterinary expenses may be incurred if health issues arise.
It’s important to allow your Snake Ranch hatchling to ‘settle in’ before any handling or other potentially stressful interaction is undertaken. If conditions are suitable, and privacy is granted, the reptile will adapt very quickly to its new surroundings. On the other hand, if this initial period is interrupted with bouts of handling, or if other factors lead to stress and uncertainty for the reptile, the settling in period can extend indefinitely. Stress in reptiles can be regarded by the keeper as cumulative, with each bad experience (e.g. being handled while frightened) adding to the store of earlier negative experiences. As exciting as a new arrival can be, the hobbyist that respects the needs of the animal and resists the urge to show it off in the initial period of settling-in, will be rewarded with a much better proposition in the long haul.