Name: Green Tree Python
Scientific name: Morelia viridis
Range: Papua and Iran Jaya, New Guinea and on the Cape York Peninsula of Australia
Habitat: humid, warm tropical regions
Status: endangered in native countries  due to habitat destruction, skin trade, and hunting for food
Diet in the wild: small rodents (mice, rabbits) and birds
Diet in the zoo: small rats and baby chicks
Location in the zoo: Herpetarium

Physical description:

Adult length 2.1 m  for large specimen, an average specimen is 1.8 m, fairly slender snake that coils around branches (looks like a cinnamon bun).  They have thermosensory pits along the upper and lower labials.  Generally, they are a vibrant green in color but some adults are blue or yellow.  They have a series of white or blue dorsal and/or lateral spots evident in most.  The hatchlings are extremely variable in color from brick red to lemon yellow to brown.   Strangely enough, all of these colors can be found in the same clutch. 

General information

The scientific name changed in 1994 from Chondropython viridis to Morelia verdis reflecting its close relationship with carpet pythons. 

They are arboreal, living in elevations from sea level to 1,8500 m. 

Hatchlings can change colors rapidly beginning when the babies are a few weeks old, or may be slower taking over two years.  Breeding season lasts from late August to late December and the eggs are laid in late November to February.  The female must have an elevated nesting box or the eggs will drop to the ground.  The incubation period is from 39 to 65 days.  It is important to keep the males separated due to competition.

Green tree python enjoys
a gentle shower in its habitat.

Special anatomical, physiological or behavioral adaptations

Evidence show that they ground forage at night and sleep during the day.  The thermosensory pits help them notice changes in temperature.  An example would be if a warm blooded animal came within range, the python would be able to notice the temperature change.  The same would be true if a cold blooded animal came within range. 

Some say that the vibrant green color and the coiled shape resembles bananas hanging in the tree.  Is this the way they camouflage themselves? We may never know, but it sounds good to me! 

Comments about the green tree pythons at the Fort Worth Zoo

Currently, there is one female green tree python  on exhibit at the zoo.  The zoo has a male and a female on loan to a zoo in Florida.  The zoo in Florida is attempting to breed the snakes with some of their pythons.  Reptile keeper, Bill Jacobs, is excited about the loan program but is ready to have the pythons back.  He said that the green tree python is one of the most popular exhibits in the herpetarium; not to mention that it is one of his personal favorites.  The snakes should be reunited in the spring and visitors to the zoo should expect a wonderful exhibit.  All three of the pythons at the zoo are from New Guinea.  They are all young adults and are about 1.6 m long.   They usually eat one large meal once a month.  Mr. Jacobs said that they like the exhibit to be humid and that they are very active at night.  He said it is one of the most asked about and loved snakes at the zoo.  He said that he is excited about the upcoming exhibit and has invited everyone to the herpetarium. 

Personal Observations

Overall, I noticed that this is a beautiful and popular snake.  The colors are varied and wonderful.  While this is a beautiful snake, and has a manageable adult size, as a pet, it has a snappy temperament, specialized regiment of care and bites on a consistent basis.  As a pet, it should be for experienced handlers only. 

Is it a South American emerald tree boa (Corallus caninus) or is it a green tree python?????

These snakes look alike and occupy the same ecological niche in their respective countries.  Their distinguishing factors are that the tree boas have bigger heads, the snout is elongated, and the head has a flatter appearance.  The python has a more sculpted and compact head.  The boa has ladder like vertebral markings as opposed to the broken -line veterbral stripe of the python. 

Photo of Emerald Boa  by John Dunn
Click on picture for larger image

Useful Addresses and Societies

Amateur Herpetological Societies
Northern Ohio Association of Herpetologists (NOAH)             Chicago Herpetological Society
Department of Biology                                                            2001 North Clark Street
Case Western Reserve University                                            Chicago, IL 60614
Cleveland, OH 44106

Gainseville Herpetological Society                                           Central Florida Herpetological Society
P. O. Box 140353                                                                     P. O. Box 3277
Gainesville, FL 32614-0353                                                     Winter Haven, FL 33881

Northern California Herpetological Society
Box 1363
Davis CA 95617-1363

Professional Herpetological Societies
Herpetologist's League                                                             Society for the Study of Amphibians 
c/o Texas Natural Heritage Program                                        and Reptiles
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department                                       Department of Zoology
4200 Smith School Road                                                           Miami University 
Austin, TX  78744                                                                    Oxford, OH  45056

Web Addresses
University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web:  Green Tree Python$narrative.html

Page Author:  Jennifer Glazier
Source list:

Bardack, D.  "Tales of Giant Snakes:  A Historical Natural History of Anacondas and Pythons". 

Choice  35(7):1217 1998 March.

Bartlett, Patricia.  Ernie Wagner.  Pythons.  Hauppauge:  Barron's Educational Series., 1997.

Cannon, Janell. Verdi.  San Diago:  Garcourt Brace & Co.  1997.

Griehl, Klaus.  Snakes.  Hauppauge:  Barron's Educational Series, Inc., 1982.

Leetz, Thomas. Snakes... As a Hobby.  Neptune City:  T. F. H. Publications, Inc., 1991.

Stoops, Erik D. Annette T. Wright.  Boas & Pythons Breeding & Care.  Neptune City T. F. H. Publications, Inc., 1993.

University of Michigan Green Tree Python

My thanks to the Fort Worth Zoo
    for having a world class zoo and staff 
    right in our back yard. 
    My special thanks to Mr. Bill Jacobs, Reptile Keeper,  for taking time to answer my questions about the green tree python. 

    Keep up the good work! 


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