Jungle Carpet Python

(Morelia spilota cheynei)

This species has the smallest geographic distribution of the carpet pythons and is the second smallest in size. They are found in dense subtropical rainforests of the Antherton Tableland in northern Australia. These pythons tend to be small elongate pythons with the head distinctly wider than the neck. Juvenile jungle carpet pythons tend to have laterally compressed body conformations that become rounded posteriorly with age. Jungle carpet pythons can be sexually mature at 4.5 to 5 feet but will generally reach an adult length of 6 feet possibly more. As can be seen in the photos, the markings of this species consist of a highly contrasting series of rings or bands. The pale pattern elements may range from a vivid golden yellow to off white and the dark pattern elements are satiny black with pale centers.

Female at around 14 months Female at around 14 months
This is what the female Jungle Carpet looked like at approx. 14 months of age and 3 feet long. It is difficult to capture the beauty of these animals on film. Flash photography tends to "wash" out the yellow resulting in black and white snakes. These were taken outdoors and you can see that the pattern contrast and yellow is outrageous. Click on images to view larger versions.

I recently acquired a pair of Jungle Carpet Pythons from Harford Reptile Breeding Center. These beauties were almost a year old when I received them in February 2000 and were already showing highly contrasting yellow and satiny black. The yellow continues to improve with each shed. Both of these snakes were very feisty and would occasionally hiss and appear to strike out at me (closed mouthed). However, after a short period of consistent handling and acclimatization to their new surroundings they became relatively calm. I would always use a snake hook to pick up these animals as this was the most stressful part of handling for them and would likely have resulted in my getting bit. Using these techniques neither snake attempted to bite me. As these jungle carpets have grown older they have become much calmer and tolerant of handling.

Female at around 18 months

Female Jungle Carpet Python at 18 months and 4+ feet long. Isn't she a beauty!

The male of this pair settled very quickly and immediately began to feed on thawed mice. The female had other plans, and for the first several months would only eat live mice. I continued to offer thawed mice to her in between live feedings. Eventually I broke her and she began to feed voraciously on mice. Despite HRBC claim that they could seldom get their animals to feed on rats, this female recently switched to eating small rats with no problem at all. To ease this transition I had been thawing her mice in direct contact with rats for several months prior to feeding her an actual rat. When I first began to scent the mice in this way she would "throw" the mice around a little before settling down to eat them. This initial reaction to the scented mice only lasted for a few feedings and never happened again. A month or two later she ate the first rat offered to her. If all goes well this little girl will lay a perfect clutch of white leathery eggs in the spring of 2002.

These photos show some of the defining characteristics of the Jungle Carpet Python including: a well defined and highly contrasting head pattern; black nasal scales;  and a black stripe or blotch from the angle of the lower jaw. The dark blue coloration on the tissues of the mouth and the tongue are normal for this species.

Hatchling Jungle Carpet Pythons average 16 - 17 inches in length and just under one ounce in weight (Barker and Barker, 1994). Typically the hatchlings are patterned as adults but the yellow pigmentation is greatly reduced or missing entirely. I purchased a week old hatchling from Bob Clark at the San Antonio expo in June 2000. As can be seen in the following images this male is a combination of black and cream color. Although many hatchling jungle carpet pythons can be nippy and aggressive this little guy is easily handled and has never attempted to bite. These pictures were taken prior to his first shed and show the shinny (just out of the egg) appearance of the skin. I hope that this little blighter will grow rapidly from this point and sire a clutch of little beauties just like him in the summer of 2002.

This hatchling jungle carpet is about a week old and has a very shinny appearance as he has not completed his first shed. This snake survived on its yolk for almost 2 months before consuming his first meal. It is difficult to determine the final quality of the pattern and the intensity of the yellow at this age. However, a close inspection of the pale areas of the pattern will give a general idea of the quality of the yellow at maturity. Click on left image to view larger version.

The original male Jungle Carpet Python from Harford Reptile Breeding Center (not pictured here) grew rapidly and ate readily, often consuming the thawed mouse that the female didn't eat as well as his own meal. Unfortunately for all involved this ideal behavior took and a sudden and fatal turn for the worse. A month after purchasing this snake it had problems shedding and was only able to remove 25 percent of its shed. He was soaked for an hour and assisted to shed completely. All appeared back to normal at this point. However, during what appeared to be the next shed cycle less than three weeks later he suddenly showed signs of central nervous system (CNS) trauma. He was uncoordinated and seemed to struggle to propel himself using vertical undulations of his torso instead of horizontal. Despite the obvious CNS problem this snake looked very healthy and alert. I was concerned that this was inclusion body disease (IBD) which is a highly contagious virus (among boas and pythons). If it had been IBD I could easily have lost my entire collection.

Despite contacting numerous experts via email and having a local vet come to the house, no cause or cure could be found for what ailed this snake. He rapidly deteriorated physically despite injections of antibiotics prescribed by the vet and all the care I could give. By mid June I had no choice but to put this animal to rest as humanely as possible. This was done not by lethal injection (if it's even possible for a snake) but by freezing. Being cold blooded, freezing rapidly slows down the metabolism and the reptile enters a hibernative state prior to death.