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Does the Australian Museum feed live rats to pythons?

By: Chris Hosking, Category: At The Museum, Date: 30 Nov 2010

I am often asked about what the Museum's live animals are fed. People are often curious about what we feed our Python, and when I inform them that he recieves an adult rat every two to four weeks the next question is; "do you feed him a live rat?" the answer can require some explaination.

Diamond Python eating rat

Ella Minton © Australian Museum

The short answer is no. The long answer is that snakes such as pythons require feeding every two to four weeks. Frozen rodents (including pinkie and adult mice for crocodiles and adult rats for pythons) are delivered to the Museum and stored in a freezer until required to be fed out. When needed, the rodent is thawed and brought to room temperature before being presented to the python. This is done for the following reasons:

  • It is illegal to feed a live vertebrate to an animal in NSW without special permisson.
  • Rats bite! Even a highly venomous snake can be injured and even killed by even a young rodent.
  • In the wild live prey can be released and avoided if the snake or other predator believes it is too dangerous to eat, in captivity however, it can’t escape the angry rodent.
  • One of the main reasons people believe a snake should be fed live food is actually false, that is that predators “enjoy” hunting live prey and that it is somehow beneficial to their health and welfare. This is inaccurate since snakes rarely chase down prey and almost always wait patiently to ambush animals, thus using minimal energy.
  • Freezing rodents kills any possible parasites, thus ensuring the health of the reptiles they are being fed to.
  • From a time and cost standpoint it is much more effective to keep 100 rats frozen than it is to keep ten rats alive, this is especially true since captive animal institutions need to provide as good captive care (including behavioural enrichment) to live food as for any other animal being held.

Some people who keep snakes such as pythons as pets, are excited by the idea of whatching their animal consume live prey. If you are considering getting a snake or know someone who is you might like to inform them of the above arguments that thawed rodents are best!

Tags Diamond Python, Morelia, spilota, feeding, rodent, rat, live, ethics,