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Stu, I think Robert was a tad narked when he received several comments on his "basic set up" video some months ago as that report was sited stating that based on the reports findings we should be offering royals taller enclosures with branches for them to climb rather than using racks. This was why he set up his terrarium, and then later modified it with an underground section with pipe work to represent burrows. The fact that he found two of his hatchlings preferring the pipework to the tree suggested to him that the "royals love small tight spaces, so small tubs are fine" as a defence for keeping them in racks. The half and half enclosure with a false base is nothing new. Can't remember if it was you or Ed that detailed their construction several years back. But Robert went a step further creating "burrows" to "prove" the fact that these snakes like small tight spaces.

Now I'm not looking at the "viv vs rub" argument, but you have to agree that the report or in the actual study that was being documented has lots of holes in it, and he puts forward a good case. The fact that what the scientist were documenting was nest raiding rather than being truly semi-arboreal, and thus they got it wrong.
 

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Stu, I think Robert was a tad narked when he received several comments on his "basic set up" video some months ago as that report was sited stating that based on the reports findings we should be offering royals taller enclosures with branches for them to climb rather than using racks. This was why he set up his terrarium, and then later modified it with an underground section with pipe work to represent burrows. The fact that he found two of his hatchlings preferring the pipework to the tree suggested to him that the "royals love small tight spaces, so small tubs are fine" as a defence for keeping them in racks. The half and half enclosure with a false base is nothing new. Can't remember if it was you or Ed that detailed their construction several years back. But Robert went a step further creating "burrows" to "prove" the fact that these snakes like small tight spaces.

Now I'm not looking at the "viv vs rub" argument, but you have to agree that the report or in the actual study that was being documented has lots of holes in it, and he puts forward a good case. The fact that what the scientist were documenting was nest raiding rather than being truly semi-arboreal, and thus they got it wrong.
I think reptile keeping is about evolving. We evolve as individual keepers and the hobby evolves as a whole. If you take Tom Crutchfield as an example, he has done some horrendous acts in terms of smuggling/breeding etc yet now is massive advocate for giving larger enclosures.
I'm not against racks, the majority of royals that I have kept have been kept in racks and they have appeared healthy, fed well and bred. I don't for one second believe that it is detrimental to a royal to live without a branch to climb in its vivarium.
I do think that have space to stretch out and to be physically able to move must benefit them. 30 years ago getting a royal to feed was an achievement, in racks we can get them to feed and breed like clockwork- it has got to the stage that can also be achieved in vivarium's, so why not do it? We have the knowledge to be able to manipulate their environment-through heating, light cycles and feeding routines we can dictate their behaviours, within their natural range of behaviours. A common argument is "my royal wont feed in a bigger tub", I can 100% guarantee that if the "bigger tub" is set up correctly with correct heating, security and the animals feeding response is triggered it will feed. 1 week, 2 weeks, or 4 weeks often isn't enough time to let the snake settle. How many of animals that "won't feed in bigger tubs" are left for 3 or 4 months to adapt? I would be willing to bet that the answer is zero. These are snakes that have been overfed already for the majority of their lives and the keeper won't allow them adequate time to settle as the race is on to get them 1500g. 2 missed feeds in a bigger tub and then its back in the smaller rub for the rest of its life.
 

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Malc, I enjoyed the video you shared, thank you 👍 Good to revisit the topic.

We always seek towards putting the case as right or wrong, nature or nature; it is often more complex and nuanced than how we tend towards presenting it.

People often don’t realise how much opinion and bias influences presentation of research papers, but the process does at least allow others to review the data and interpretation.

I thought the comments and critique in the video were reasoned and well thought out.

I am not sure I would agree that royals would never bask naturally in the wild, but if one was of that opinion, I can see why that would legitimise the assumption that lighting (and/or basking spot) might not be essential.……
There is a similar opinion amongst some breeders of rainbow boas. Some keepers are beginning to demonstrate counter examples where basking is sought out when provided.

I am in favour of more complex environments in captive setups.

I would be concerned about providing a lot of climbing height for a royal python (greater than 3 or 4 foot), as even with a well practised and toned animal, I would fear they would be liable to hurt themselves if they fell.

When I kept royals back in the nineties, I kept them fairly basically, newspaper, a couple of hides, and a water bowl, but did include a branch, and they would navigate around it, sometimes waking me with noisy antics. They are relatively clumsy climbers in my experience, and often lost their grip.
 

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Sorry to resurrect an old thread, but Robert Barraclough has just posted a video which rips apart the scientific study that was the basis of this(and other) discussions in his latest video.


Whilst some of his logic is sound, other parts are questionable, but it does indeed highlight the need for a true scientific survey and a report that doesn't leave the reader the option to come to their own conclusions...

I am hugely in favour of people looking up and reading research themselves but I have two replies to this video...

1. Somebody should probably tell this guy that there is more than one studies demonstrating arboreality in Royal pythons, including one where the authors radio-tracked the pythons between 2000 and 2005 and found males spend 25% of their active period climbing - I will get back to that. It ties into getting a broad picture from many studies rather than just looking at one.

2. 'Rips apart' that study? No, not at all. There is SO MUCH reaching and inaccuracy in this video. Normally I ignore Youtube reptile vids as they are not exactly the pinnacle of accuracy but it becomes outright dangerous when people like this start misrepresenting or misinterpreting facts and outright making things up. So much so I have to respond here to a number of the misrepresentations, fallacies and outright wrong statements in the video, as this guy is trying to paint a picture that just does not exist.

So from the beginning:

'The dry season in Africa is not particularly dry'/ 'there are no seasons in Royal python range.'

Er, what? I suspect this guy has never visited the parts of Africa where Royals live (or at least are most commonly imported from). There is HUGE seasonality there; sure, not so much in temperature but certainly in humidity and precipitation. A couple of examples:

Nigeria, average precipitation in wet season hits 65mm a day, goes down to 3.68mm a day in dry season. Quite a difference between 3mm and 65mm...

Ghana, average precipitation in dry season is 13.6" (*inches), average precipitation in the wet season is 1184."

Togo, precipitation is lower than 1mm per day in the dry season with relative humidity under 40%; in wet season this goes up to 7-8mm a day and relative humidity of 80%.

Why is it important to mention this? Because in the video the man flip-flops between seasonality being important to nest-raiding (we will get to that) and then makes out there are no seasons and the snakes do the same thing at all times of year. Only... we KNOW that is not true, we know that Royal pythons aestivate during the dry season and are typically found down burrows during these months. Basing what we know about their ecology on aestivation periods would be like basing husbandry of the Grass snake only on the fact they hibernate during the winter and are not more active at other parts of the year. Of course the dry season was not factored in, we know what the snakes are doing in dry season - aestivating in burrows.


'The study area is limited geographically'/ 'not representative of Royal python habitat'

...sure. This study was undertaken in south-eastern Nigeria. No argument there.

I wonder what he will say when he learns that there are records of arboreality in Sudan (Charles Sweeney), and Togo (Aubret et al)? Even Stefan Gorzula found a python up a tree in Ghana. For some reason people like to make out the study in question is less important because it is in one particular area. And yes, Royal pythons are certainly opportunistic snakes and colonise savannah and anthropogenically altered habitats like plantations and farmland very well (better than most other snakes in fact). But - and this is important - they reach highest population densities in forested areas - not just in Nigeria but in Ghana and Togo too.

This is not only pointed out by Luiselli and Aubret, but also by the local trackers themselves, for example:

D’Cruze, Neil, et al. "Searching for snakes: Ball python hunting in southern Togo, West Africa." Nature Conservation 38 (2020): 13.

"Ball pythons ... were most likely to be found in forest habitats (reported by n = 49 of 58 hunter/traders, 84.5%), farmland (70.1%; n = 41) or oil palm plantations (31.0%; n = 18). Other habitats where pythons could reportedly be found included fallow land (n = 11), rice fields owned by the interviewees (n = 5), teak plantations (n = 2), and Casava plantations (n = 1); note that hunters gave more than one answer." "With regards to release habitat, 18% (n = 9) stated that they released snakes into the forest. Others stated that they released snakes into farmland (6%; n = 3), fallow land (2%; n = 1), or, in most cases (68%; n = 34), a combination of forest, farmland, and / or fallow land; 6% (n = 3) said that they released ball pythons into either farmland or oil palm plantations."

"Ball python “ranching” in Togo (as outlined in UNEP-WCMC 2014) depends on the collection of gravid females and egg clutches, that are found by following tracks in farmland or forest, breaking open hollow palm trunks, and / or digging up abandoned rodent burrows (Harris 2002)."

Several hunters also referred to forest destruction as a primary reason why the snakes are becoming rarer.

So... native python hunters, when questioned, told the researchers in 2021 that they were finding the snakes up trees and in hollow palm trunks... and that forests/ tree plantations are primary habitat for them... just the same as they told me in 2002 almost twenty years ago, and Luca Luiselli in 1998.

Of course you also find Royal pythons in habitat with comparatively few trees such as Savannah and farmland. No argument there. But the massive bias for hobby importers to use trackers that restrict their python hunting to landscapes that have been altered by human activity is what has skewed our perception of the habitat these snakes live in.


'What does semi-arboreal mean?'

Really the main argument people have is not 'do Royal pythons climb' - everybody accepts they do at least now and then. The real division comes in the application of the term 'semi-arboreal.' As far as I am concerned, that is deflection but since he highlighted a definition of semi-arboreality in his video, I shall here point out that the meaning of 'semi-arboreal' means from a Zoological perspective:

"semiarboreal (not comparable)
(of a creature) Which sometimes dwells in trees."

"Definition of semiarboreal: often inhabiting and frequenting trees but not completely arboreal"

"semiarboreal
semiarboreal (ˌsɛmɪɑːˈbɔːrɪəl)
adj
(Zoology) (of animals) spending half or some of their life in trees"

(I suspect this last, from the Collins English dictionary, may account for the idea that an animal has to spend 'half' it's life in trees; genteelly missing out the 'or some.')

Regardless, people are putting far too much stock in a definition and failing to understand the facts. The animals are regularly using trees for hunting, they are regularly being found on trees. It doesn't matter whether this is only during some parts of the year. It does not matter they are doing it to 'nest raid.' They regularly climb trees to the point that animals under a metre have a diet consisting of more arboreal animals and adult animals pick up differing parasite loads as a result of males being more arboreal than females. (We will come back to that point later).


'The study had a small sample size'

He points out the study included 29 males and 33 females (actually 38 males and 49 females due to recapturing). He makes out this is 'not large enough to be significant.' Presumably he does not have a lot of experience sampling snakes in the wild then, as in general studies on wild snakes tend to run on far lower sample sizes simply because snakes are extremely secretive and hard to find.

Snakes are perhaps one of the most difficult vertebrate groups to survey. Groombridge and Luxmoore (1991) state that: “Typically, it is difficult or impossible routinely to observe significant numbers of individuals of a given snake species, and more so to capture them for measurement, or assessment of reproductive condition, for example.”

These authors also point out that most snakes are “both secretive and elusive, and that their appearance is quite often seasonal.” In addition, snakes are usually solitary and rarely form aggregations, except in exceptional cases such as rattlesnake hibernacula. Snakes cannot vocalise and therefore are not heard from a distance. In effect, they are usually only seen when the researcher almost steps on the

Even snake species which are known to be fairly common, such as the adder, Vipera berus (Reading et al. 1996) will not necessarily be located by experienced researchers. During a recent survey of the adder, Vipera berus, in Scotland (Reading et al. 1995) the field biologists failed to detect any snakes after 3 visits each to a total of 12 sites. When the survey was repeated used local volunteers it took 97 site visits, spread between 16 localities, to observe only 69 adders.

Stefan Gorzula has more than 20 year of experience in herpetological expeditions and in his report for CITES on the status of the Royal python considered that 1 or 2 snakes (of all species) per field week would the average number that would be encountered in natural habitats by experienced museum collectors. Most expeditions return with only single specimens of each species captured.

So sure, bigger sample size would be nice but 87 hits is pretty decent for a study of this kind and FAR higher than a lot of other studies on other species ever managed to turn up.


'There is a clear break point in lifestyle once the snake reaches a certain length' and 'the claim of sexually dimorphic behavioural traits is false'

I list these two together for the simple reason that this guy - as have all the others that have tried to downplay this study - has made a very simple mistake. He has gone all out trying to discredit the authors and their conclusions without understanding the breadth of work out there... what he SHOULD have done is check the list of citations at the end and, even better, actually get in contact with Luca Luiselli and the other authors themselves and they would have been MORE than happy to provide more recent studies which strengthen their arguments....

So firstly, the paper does not say with certainty that there is a break point in lifestyle down to size (in male snakes at least, in females it does). Rather, what it found found was that females STILL consume birds and there are several others that corroborate this; they simply eat a lower percentage of birds; and they also still at least occasionally eat arboreal mammals now and then too (including larger bats that a smaller animal would not be capable of taking), the study nowhere states they 'only' eat terrestrial mammals (although certainly there is a pronounced ontogenetic shift in females towards ground-dwelling and predating terrestrial mammals, that much is not in doubt - just not exclusively).

What actually is stated is that 'There was an apparent ontogenetic change in the diet of both sexes: specimens shorter than 70 cm total length preyed almost exclusively upon small-sized birds (nestlings and immature), whereas the longer specimens (> 100 cm total length) preyed almost entirely upon small mammals."
Read this again. It nowhere states that the mammals were 'not arboreal,' merely that diet became more mammalian and indeed some of the mammals being taken would be FAR outsized for small snakes (e.g. Megaloglossus, Epomopherus - which were recorded as eaten by FEMALES and certainly were not found down burrows...) as well as Galagoides.

That is a simple mistake to make. However the video then sets out to try and dispute the idea that there is disparity in the behaviour between mature males and females and this is where he once again slips up.

You see... there are more studies that show the same thing (and not just in Nigeria!).

For example it was found in Togo too, in the original paper referenced by the one the video sets out to 'rip apart':

(Aubret, Bonnet, Harris & Maumelat, 2005) "Sex Differences in Body Size and Ectoparasite Load in the Ball Python, Python regius"

"In juveniles, the number of ticks was not significantly different between males and females. In adults, however, the tick burden was significantly higher in males than in females (these analyses were also performed using a Kruskall Wallis ANOVA with sex as factor and the residual values of the regression between log SVL and log tick burden as dependent variable, without changing the results presented in Table 2)."

This implies it is ADULT animals picking up differing parasite burdens and states that juveniles were not distinguishable in parasite burden. This study was undertaken in Togo, NOT Nigeria. And found the same thing!

Luca Luiselli, the author of the study in question, realised this and decided to perform ANOTHER study:

Luiselli, Luca. "Why do males and females of Python regius differ in ectoparasite load?." Amphibia-Reptilia 27.3 (2006): 469-471.

In this one, he radio-tracked pythons between 2000 and 2005. And guess what he found? Male pythons spent 25% of their active period climbing above ground (when asked he has replied that 'above ground' meant 'more than a metre off the ground.'

This is why it is so important to find out what other studies are out there that support arboreality in this species before going all out to try and discredit just one.

'The prey data was skewed due to season/ locality and does not reflect "usual" habits"'

Sure, this could seem like a valid point. Except, again, we have other data from different studies from different countries and different seasons. The following came from June to September, for example:

Font Parallel Circle Pattern Rectangle




And what do we see? The highest individual species of prey item was Cisticola, a type of warbler (bird). Also Dendropicos (woodpeckers). Once again, you will not these are tree nesters not ground nesters. Other mammals found were Macrochiroptera (fruit bats) and Plecotus (another bat). So once again the insinuation that Luiselli's data was unique or 'special' is - wrong.

'The snakes are seasonal nest robbers and this somehow downplays their arboreality'

No it doesn't. Are the snakes climbing trees? Yes? Then it does not matter WHY, it matters that they ARE. Go back and look at the definitions of semi-arboreal above.

What is REALLY interesting though is that he brings up seasonality in bird nesting. And that is another red herring, as Africa is rather unique in that it has the highest diversity of ground nesting birds in the world and there are at least some bird species nesting year round - enough that the same habitat that Royal pythons live in has produced the ONLY genus of wholly egg eating snakes in the world (Dasypeltis, the egg eaters). And they exist by raiding nests more or less year round.

Why is this important? Because Africa has a wide spread of GROUND NESTING birds - pratincoles, plovers, dikkops, widows - and yet NONE of the bird species being found in the data sets taken by Royal pythons were ground nesting birds. If Royal pythons were truly 'opportunistic' then why are they not taking advantage of this seemingly easy terrestrial food source?


'Arboreality and bird eating are not always correlated in snakes'

Ahhhh... he said it. :) I love it when people cherry pick that ONE sentence out of a paragraph that explicitly suggests this does not apply in this case.

Much has been made of a particular sentence from the Luca Luiselli and Francesco Angelici paper 'Sexual size dimorphism and natural history traits are correlated with intersexual dietary divergence in royal pythons (python regius) from the rainforests of southeastern Nigeria.'

The sentence in question is: 'In this context, it is however worth noting that arboreality and bird-eating are not always correlated events in snakes (Shine, 1983; Luiselli & Rugiero, 1993; Angelici & Luiselli, 1998).'

People LOVE to quote that sentence as if it 'disproves' semi-arboreality in Royal pythons; unfortunately it is an amusing and rather severe case of cherry picking given that i. the sentence appears in a paper that literally spends three pages explaining the snakes are semi-arboreal (at least within the study area); ii. it appears after a paragraph explaining that although this may be the case in some species, it is not in Royal pythons:

"We suggest that these differences in dietary composition depend on a major arboreality of males in comparison with females. Factors in favour of this hypothesis are: (i) males were found climbing on trees more frequently than females (14 specimens versus 2 specimens); and (ii) the presence in the males' diet of a higher number of arboreal prey, including birds, squirrels, and Galagoides demidoff."

Quoting just the one sentence is disingenuous and intellectually dishonest. What makes it MORE funny though is when you read the citations alongside the statement that arboreality is not always linked to bird eating.

Shine R., 1983 - Arboreality in snakes: ecology of the Australian elapid genus Hoplocephalus. Copeia, 1983: 198-205.

"However, birds (and their eggs) are a more important dietary component in arboreal species (eaten by 43%) than in terrestrial species (23%)."

(arboreality and bird-eating ARE, it turns out, correlated in this example, something the nay-sayers seem to omit).

The other two citations are:

Angelici F. M., Luiselli L., 1998 - Ornithophagy in Italian snakes: a review. Bull. Soc. zool. France, in press.

and

Luiselli L., Rugiero L., 1993 - Food habits of the Aesculapian snake (Elaphe longissima) in central Italy: do arboreal snakes eat more birds than terrestrial ones. J. Herpetol., 27: 116-117.

THESE ones are the funny ones. It finds that, yes, arboreality and bird-eating are not correlated in the case of Aesculapian snakes living in woodland compared to the city... Aesculapian snakes in both habitats eat birds.

What is funny about it is - anybody that has ever seen or kept an Aesculapian snake knows these snakes are INCREDIBLY elegant and proficient climbers that tend to move 'up' when they can and where they are not 'arboreal' (used in the strict definition of the term - i.e. living in trees) they are - building dwellers. Specifically, living up drain pipes and gutters and on top of bus stops.

I can show an image of what Aesculapian snake habitat looks like in a non-arboreal setting - below. anybody using this paper as an argument against climbing in Royal pythons needs their head checking haha. The snakes STILL climbed.

Here you go. Here's non-arboreal Aesculapian snake habitat. What point do you think it proves with regard to climbing in the species, I wonder?

Pipeline transport White Water Bicycle part Line


Can you see it yet?

Snow Wood Pipeline transport Gas Vehicle door


This brings us back to our definitions. A definition he took pains to highlight earlier in the video! 'Arboreal' specifically refers to 'inhabiting trees' NOT 'climbing.' This is a mistake many people make.

An animal that climbs rocks is not called 'arboreal.' It is called 'saxicolous.'

An animal that climbs around in caves (like a cave salamander) would also not be called 'arboreal' it would be called 'troglobitic.'

A saxicolous or troglobitic animal might climb just as much as - or MORE than - an arboreal animal. And in the case of the studies mentioned above, 'arboreal' was used in its strictest sense - 'inhabiting trees' NOT 'climbing.' Once again simple failure to read up on the citations.

He says once again 'the animals are not living in trees they are simply climbing trees to rob nests.' If they were LIVING in trees they would be arboreal, not semi-arboreal. Climbing trees to rob nests is the definition of semi-arboreality! They go up for a reason then come down.

He goes on to state (at about the 22 minute mark) that 'the vast majority of the animals were found on the ground' before turning the page and reading that 14 of 29 males were in fact plucked like fruit off trees. That is around 40%. Vast majority?


'Cobras do not climb trees'

I am pointing out this error simply to make people realise that something said with confidence from a place of ignorance does not make it any more true.

He shares a pic of a Cape cobra (Naja nivea) - a species that OFTEN climbs trees (google 'Cape cobra tree' - you will see loads of pics of Cape and Forest cobras in trees, mostly from the African Snakebite Institute). He must have forgotten there is an entire genus of tree cobras too (Pseudohaje). A LOT of African cobras are semi arboreal (much more so than Royal pythons in fact) and even some Asian cobras climb rather a lot. His analogy falls flat on its face in light of this. Just a petty little gripe.


'Royal pythons cannot locomote up trees'

Another common misconception. He shows a few pictures of long, attenuate snakes climbing thin twigs and compares them (rather unfairly) to Royal pythons.

Only... Royal pythons don't move along thin twigs as they are not arboreal. However in African rainforests, the trees commonly look like this:

Plant Human body Tree Terrestrial plant Wood


They get covered with African strangler figs. It is a completely different prospect to balancing out upon long thin twigs like a Twig snake or Vine snake.

He goes into a point about Royal pythons 'not being able to strike fast' but seems to forget this is unimportant as we already established Royal pythons are not 'strikers' they are foragers raiding nests and tree holes, they don't NEED to strike, any more than they would by sticking their head down a rodent burrow (rodents are pretty fast too!)

(We know this as it has been described by Charles Sweeney who observed and recorded Royal Python tree hunting behaviour in Sudan - again, not in Nigeria).


'Tropical snakes don't bask'

This is the most mystifying and erroneous point in the whole piece.

We are going to sit here and be told that - forget Royal pythons - all the other snakes in their habitat don't bask? Cobras, Mambas, Philothamnus, Psammophis, Afronatrix, Natriciteres, Grayia, Thelotornis, Bitis - none of these bask, ever? And snakes in other parts of the tropics - Flying snakes, Bronzebacks, Rhabdophis, Tiger rat snakes, Boas, other pythons - none of these bask?

Really?

My first instinct would be to say 'bull - I have been in Royal python habitat and I have seen Royal pythons basking in sunlight, as well as all those other species I named.' But I won't because that is just anecdotal.

There is a video by Stefan Broghammer on Youtube catching a basking Royal python. G.S Cansdale writes about it all the way back in the 1960s 'the royal python is sometimes caught while sunning itself in the open during the daytime.'

Hell, Dav Kaufman is out in Africa now and the first Royal python he came upon was:

Vertebrate Smile Plant Beard Mammal


Let me state it here. Tropical snakes DO bask. They just tend to be hard to observe while doing it, and they don't need to do it for as long as temperate snakes. There ARE some snakes that are thermoconformers (Stegonotus come to mind). Royal pythons are not. Hell, Myke Clarkson went out and documented Blood pythons basking, he even got UV Indices and temperature at the basking site.

The reason for this is fairly simple. As is common, this bloke has made a mistake of referring to climatic graphs that tell you great things about ambient temperatures six feet off the ground but tell you NOTHING about surface temperatures or microhabitats. When it is 15C in the UK the ground can hit 30C. When it is 27C in Gibraltar, surfaces can easily clear 50-60C. Ambient temperatures don't tell us much about habitat use.

Now, snakes and other reptiles are not 'cold blooded' - this is the mistake people make. They DON'T (with a few rare exceptions) exist 'at the same temperature as their surroundings' as this bloke makes out. This is why people no longer call them 'cold blooded' but rather 'poikilothermic' or 'ectothermic' - their PREFERRED TEMPERATURE (Tp) may be higher than that of a warm blooded animal (it usually ranges around 35-37C). A snake depends on its external environment to regulate its temperature but it is a huge mistake to assume its temperature is the same as its environment. A properly warmed up snake glows with heat (it might be warmer than you are). It achieves this by basking.

The problem with keeping snake at one ambient temperature is - snakes preferred temperature changes according to age, according to sex, according to time of year. it changes preprandial (before eating) vs postprandial (after eating). It changes depending on whether a female is gravid or not. This has been tested on pythons and boas and other tropical snakes. It is not a single number but a variable one. You cannot cater to this by keeping the snake in a narrow temperature band of 4 degrees. Even if it might choose to spend MOST of its time there.

This is why keeping snakes at one temperature is not done and why we provide a thermal gradient. And they absolutely WILL use a heat source higher than surrounding temperatures if you provide it. Keeping a snake or any reptile at one temperature band is cruel, it does not fit their habits and is not good welfare. Simple as. This is not in dispute.

Thermal ecology is particularly close to my own heart as I studied thermal ecology myself in Podarcis vaucheri as a student - it is so profound that it can be use to differentiate that species from related ones - and under Professor Roger Avery who was is one of the foremost experts on reptile thermoregulation. We have a study for this too specifically on Royals - although others exist for all sorts of other tropical snakes that I would be HAPPY to share showing them basking and thermoregulating.

Hollandt, Tina, Markus Baur, and Anna-Caroline Wöhr. "Animal-appropriate housing of ball pythons (Python regius)—Behavior-based evaluation of two types of housing systems." Plos one 16.5 (2021): e0247082.

In this study, the Royals were kept in tubs at the same temperatures recommended in this video (27C to 32C) or in vivs with higher basking temperatures up to 38C. And the snakes in the vivs spent on average 144 minutes a day basking at the high temperatures (under UV too!). And they showed improved behaviours in the latter including climbing.

I agree with StuG. We don't need any more studies. We don't need this one study to continously be rehashed either. Royals climb. It doesn't matter that they don't climb all the time, or even that they may not climb all year - nobody is disputing that they spend 90% of their time in burrows. And I think people get TOO wrapped up in the 'semi arboreality' - they don't need a cage for a tree boa, a branch or two is fine. I have seen people criticise perfectly great cages because they did not look like an enclosure for a Green tree python.

This is one species a cage with drawers 'Applegate style' would be best suited for. Or a cage with a false floor and subterranean hides. They spend a lot of their lives in burrows. Nobody denies that, this is why my preferred design for a Royal cage has always incorporated BOTH - facility to climb and bask, and facility to sit in a hole for days at a time. It should not be a choice between one or the other. Want to create the 'perfect' Royal python viv? Make something like the one pictured below:

Triangle Font Art Handwriting Parallel


Hell, PVC tubes or drawers or whatever would be perfect for the tunnels too. It all would work. But don't deny one aspect of their life to cater to another; whether that is climbing or burrowing.

And - shock - I think a 3x2x2 is going to be enough for most male Royals, with a 4x2x2 ample for all but the very largest females.

Wow that was a write up. Call it two weeks of not being on the forum.
 

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@Thrasops Fantastic piece you've written and very interesting. It's certainly made me more determined to have at least 4ft in height for my Royal's new viv and a deep bottom area.

I'm fairly new to having a Royal, but I've noticed Fluffy spends most of their time in the low heat emitting uva/uvb basking area. When the bulb goes out, Fluffy often climbs onto the branch near it. It's surprised me as it's the cooler end of the viv, the ceramic heater is the other end. Currently Fluffy is in a 3 x 2 x 2 viv, but is still a youngster.

On a side note, I don't suppose you know of any good books on Royal Pythons? I'd like something in- depth, not a basic "how to keep" one.
 

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@Thrasops Fantastic piece you've written and very interesting. It's certainly made me more determined to have at least 4ft in height for my Royal's new viv and a deep bottom area.

I'm fairly new to having a Royal, but I've noticed Fluffy spends most of their time in the low heat emitting uva/uvb basking area. When the bulb goes out, Fluffy often climbs onto the branch near it. It's surprised me as it's the cooler end of the viv, the ceramic heater is the other end. Currently Fluffy is in a 3 x 2 x 2 viv, but is still a youngster.

On a side note, I don't suppose you know of any good books on Royal Pythons? I'd like something in- depth, not a basic "how to keep" one.
Don't get me wrong - they don't NEED four feet in height and probably would not use it all the time. And with that kind of space you could easily give them a foot of substrate with tunnels to hide in and that would serve them well. If set up correctly though you would probably find they will move around up there occasionally so it is nice to have if you can provide it. But a rat snake would get much more from that kind of height for example. It is always good to go bigger but not super necessary for Royals - I would say about 24" is a fine height if you provide good thick branches (more is fine too though).

Here is a pic of one of Robbie Gicaro's pythons. Robbie also lives in South East Asia and keeps his pythons outside and reports they climb a lot. I do think more could be offered for burrowing and security though in this enclosure. But it does show they can certainly climb and locomote perfectly well up branches.

Plant Wood Mesh Terrestrial plant Tree


Regarding books, the best and most comprehensive is undoubtedly 'Pythons of the World vol. 2 - Ball Pythons' by the Barkers. Good luck finding it now though, it is very expensive. Certainly the best book out there on them, and it does briefly mention Luca Luiselli's studies as well as others in the natural history section. Philippe deVosjoli's books are also worth a look. he used to import WC Royals early on and kept them differently than most 'breeders' - he had them in big enclosures in groups and found they bred best that way.

You could also look up Lindsey Herpetology on Facebook, she has an 8x4x4 enclosure with a pair of Royal pythons that is set up very well and reports hers climb a lot too. She moderates the 'Not Just a Pet Rock' group. There are plenty of people on here with far more experience than I have keeping Royals that can advise too.
 

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Philippe deVosjoli's books are also worth a look. he used to import WC Royals early on and kept them differently than most 'breeders' - he had them in big enclosures in groups and found they bred best that way.
My only comment regarding those books is that whilst his books contain a great deal of information, being written some 30+ years ago some of the information, whist good, is somewhat dated. For example, with so much captive breeding these days the section dealing with parasitic treatments is not so common these days as it was with captive farmed imports, which were the norm back then.
 

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My only comment regarding those books is that whilst his books contain a great deal of information, being written some 30+ years ago some of the information, whist good, is somewhat dated. For example, with so much captive breeding these days the section dealing with parasitic treatments is not so common these days as it was with captive farmed imports, which were the norm back then.
Oh absolutely. There is so much outdated info in some of those old books. But it is interesting reading how things were done. Just look at the Trutnau bibles (Snakes in the Terrarium vol. I and II). Some of the best books ever written in terms of species specific husbandry advice... but he also advocates 'bed rest and a hot flannel' for venomous snake bites... advice that does not stand up so much today!
 
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