Breed: Children’s Python
Lifespan: 15-20 years
Cost: $200-$300 ($1000+ for full set-up)
Recommended for: 10+ years
Snakes have been kept as pets for many thousands of years, although it is not known exactly when Australian snakes were first kept in captivity. Today there are many amateur reptile keepers in Australia and some have made valuable contributions to herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians).
Despite its name the Children’s Python is not a python that eats children, nor is it a snake more suitable than others as a children’s pet. This reptile was named after the scientist John George Children, who first described them. Children’s Python is the common name given to the four native Australian pythons of the genus Antaresia. Antaresia childreni and Antaresia maculosa are the most commonly kept by amateur herpetologists. A. childreni can be found in the wild across much of northern Australia, while A. maculosa is seen along the northern half of the east coast of Australia.
Children’s Pythons are known for their smaller size compared to other python species. A. childreni has basic brown colouration with chocolate markings that are one or two shades darker and band-like in shape. They have a distinguishing blue sheen over their scales, which can be seen in the sun. This snake grows to no longer than 1.1 metres. The A. maculosa is lighter brown in body colour with dark chocolate markings that are quite splotched. It grows to 1.6 metres in length. Colour in both snakes varies depending on the area of origin.
Children’s Pythons are pretty placid and this is one of their best features, however they will strike and can bite if they feel in danger. Owners say each snake has its own personality, some are extremely placid while others are more fiery. Despite an owner’s affection, snakes will not build a relationship with people. Children’s Pythons can live in a solitary or colony environment, but they must not be fed together as this induces more competitive and aggressive behaviour.
Children’s Pythons should be kept in a timber enclosure with a glass front and a secure lid for access. The enclosure must have a heat lamp that is thermostatically controlled and the snake must be provided with a day/night cycle using a UV light. A rock of some sort is highly recommended for the Children’s Python and synthetic rocks are available. You must also have a water bowl for drinking and a branch or two for climbing. A substrate of recycled paper kitty litter can be used because it holds heat well, is absorbent and can be put on garden as mulch after use. You can make an enclosure yourself, but they can be bought, along with all the necessary accessories, from good pet stores. Total cost (without snake) depending on size is $800 +. Ongoing cost $2.50 per week inclusive of electricity.
Once the set-up has been established, maintenance is very low. Mice are the main source of food and can be bought from most pet stores. The number of feeds depends on the season and the snake’s level of activity. The snakes start on pinkies (baby hairless mice), then go up to adult mice and even small rats as well. Breeders recommend pythons eat frozen food that has been thawed and a vitamin supplement added. It’s more humane for the food and less dangerous for the snake. Fresh water and a change of substrate, when necessary, will keep the snake in good health.
It is very important that Children’s Pythons are handled correctly. It is recommended that potential owners receive a handling lesson from an experienced person. Here are the basic rules:
1. Hold from underneath the snake.
2. Do not grab at the snake, but approach gently.
3. Make sure the snake is aware they are being disturbed before you pick them up.
4. Have clean freshly washed hands and clothes that do not smell like another animals.
Baby pythons should not be handled too much, but once they are larger they can be handled a lot. Be aware that as cold blooded creatures snakes will become more active the warmer they get. As you handle the snake they will warm up due to your body temperature.
Health and lifespan
25 – 30 years. A snake kept in a good set-up should have no health problems.
A Children’s Python will cost between $200-350 dollars depending on size and colour. Including the enclosure and accessories the total is $1000+. Because these snakes have been kept in captivity for many years, there is no need for them to be collected from the wild for distribution as pets. They are relatively easy to breed and therefore numbers can be sustained by breeders. In each state the laws for selling and distribution are different. For details, see ‘Legislation & licensing’ below.
Anyone 10 years and over can keep a Children’s Python, however supervision for children is essential. It is highly recommended that potential snake owners find out how to look after and set up for the reptile before they buy the snake. Many people make the mistake of buying a snake and find out later they must pay a lot more money to complete the set-up. If the place of purchase cannot give you all the information, contact your local pet store or a Herpetology organisation in your state.
Owning a pet python means there is always a chance of getting bitten or attacked. However a snake, like most other pets, will only bite if it feels threatened or frightened. Only buy snakes from reputable breeders or pet stores so you can be sure of what you are buying. The bite from a Children’s Python is non-venomous to humans, however you should seek medical advice if bitten.
Legislation and licensing
Currently, members of the general public can keep Children’s Pythons in NSW, Qld, SA, ACT, Vic and NT (but not Tas or WA). All states have different licensing laws and requirements. It is best to contact the National Parks and Wildlife service in your state to find out what you must do. In NSW, reptiles can only be bought and sold privately.
In WA, reptiles are not allowed to be kept privately but the WA government is considering changes to this law. They are currently seeking input from the public in regards to these changes.
In Tasmania, only native Tasmanian reptiles can be kept. The importation of native reptiles from other states is not allowed. There is no immediate plan by the government to change this.
For more information
We filmed our story with Steve Leisk of Kellyville Pets. Steve has been privately breeding and selling Children’s Pythons for three years and can give good information by way of a fact sheet. Steve can be contacted on 0418 979 137.
106B Windsor Rd
Kellyville, NSW, 2155
Phone: (02) 9629 3282
Fax: (02) 9629 3360
ACT Herpetology Association
PO Box 1335
Herpetological Society of Queensland Inc
PO Box 5001
Secretary – David Sewell
Phone: (07) 3398 2100
Victorian Herpetological Society
PO Box 523
Phone: (03) 9437 0755
Western Australian Society of Amateur Herpetologists
169 Egina Street
Mount Hawthorn, 6016
Phone: (08) 9444 6412 or (08) 9445 2409 or (08) 9295 3007.
Australianherps is a free online Herpetological Society. This is mainly aimed at Australians who are trying to locate captive bred reptiles or frogs (within Australia) or who have captive bred reptiles to trade or sell (within Australia).
National Parks and Wildlife Services
Environment Information Centre
PO Box 144
Helpline: (02) 6207 9777
National Parks and Wildlife Service
102 George Street
The Rocks, 2000
Phone: 1300 361 967 (within NSW) or (02) 9253 4600
Fax: (02) 9251 8482
Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory
Phone: (08) 8999 5511
Fax: (08) 8932 3849
Department of Environment
PO Box 155
Phone: (07) 3227 8185
Department of Environment and Heritage
GPO Box 1047
National Parks and Wildlife Service
Phone: (08) 8204 1910
Parks and Wildlife Service
GPO Box 44A
Phone: 1300 135 513
Department of Conservation and Land Management, Western Australia
Locked Bag 104
Bentley Delivery Centre, WA, 6983
Phone: (08) 9334 0333