Species: A. childreni
Conservation Status: Children's pythons are classified as 'least concern' and much of their natural range is sparsely developed. Australia does prohibit the exportation of most of its wildlife, so captive populations are dependent on established animals.
Natural History: These small bodied pythons hail from the northern regions of mainland Australia and have small isolated populations on the islands of the Torres strait. They can be found in a wide variety of environments from semi-arid scrub land, dry deciduous woodland and tropical forests. This species is often found on the ground, but are agile climbers as well. Scaling trees to hunt birds and avoid predators, they will also hang from branches or rock formations near the opening of caves to catch small species of bats as they emerge in the evening or return at dawn. The Children's python is named in honor of John George Children by zoologist John Edward Gray who worked under Children at the British Museum from 1824-1840. Like all pythons the Children's python is a constrictor, striking at prey with long thin recurved teeth and then pulling the prey animal into coils and tightening with every exhalation of its prey. Children's pythons prey on a variety of organisms, amphibians, lizards, birds, and small mammals make up a bulk of its diet. Like many other python species is has several loreal pits located on either side of the head and allows it to detect thermal radiation produced by endothermic prey. For a python, childreni are fairly small, having lithe muscular bodies and typically measuring 26-36" upon maturity.
Care in Captivity: The Children's python is a hardy and robust animal and typically thrives in captivity presenting few challenges. Our pythons are kept in spacious tubs on a rack system. Thermostatically controlled heat pads provide a thermal gradient with the warm back of the tub reaching mid 80's and the cool front dropping into the mid 70's. A secure hide box on each side allows the snake to thermoregulate while still feeling secure. I give my children's an angled branch of clean dry hardwood, while not necessary they will occasionally be found perched on it. A clean source of fresh water and a size appropriate frozen thawed mouse every 7-10 days makes for a trouble free python. Every now and then a hatchling may require a live or even lizard scented pinky mouse for its first couple of meals, but generally switch to frozen thawed quickly. With a lifespan of 20 to 30 years in captivity you'll be able to enjoy your dwarf python for years or decades to come.
Captive Reproduction: All members of the genus Antaresia breed readily in captivity, and this has helped to establish fairly stable captive populations. Some breeders expose their pythons to a brief cooling period accompanied by a fast, while I have done this as well I find it is unnecessary and even without seasonal fluctuations childreni will produce viable clutches. I usually begin introducing the male to the females enclosure in early February every few days until several copulations have been observed. It is not unusual for the pair to remain locked for several hours at a time. The gestational period fluctuates some, but typically lasts 85-90 days. Once you observe the female 'rolling' its a good idea to provide her with a nesting box, I use plastic rubbermaid food storage tubs, large enough for the snake to enter and feel 'snug'. I fill the nesting container with very slightly dampened sphagnum moss and as the female approaches oviposition she will spend increasing amounts of time in the box. She will normally shed once, 15 to 20 days before she lays, and this shed can be a very reliable predictor of when to expect eggs. Children's pythons can lay up to 25 eggs in a single clutch, but 8-14 is a far more common number. The female will coil tightly around the egg mass and often displays increased defensive behavior. The pythons can and will self incubate, but the conditions must be ideal for this to occur and she will usually refuse to feed while protecting her clutch. For purposes of increased clutch survivability and to help the female regain lost weight I remove the clutch to incubate artificially. I incubate the eggs in a plastic container with course vermiculite dampened with a 1:1 ratio of water by weight. Humidity is very important, but wetness can damage the eggs. At a temperature of 88-90 degrees fahrenheit the eggs should begin pipping at around 40-50 days. Neonates will often take frozen thawed pinkies as their first meal, but occasionally live or even lizard scented prey is needed for the first one to two meals.
Our Animals: We maintain a small group of Children's pythons, this is one of my favorite species of python. Their small size and feisty behavior make them incredibly personable snakes and not at all the 'pet rocks' that some pythons are often considered.