I often get asked, by children and parents alike, if they should get a green tree python as a first snake. And I always answer this question the same way — absolutely not. This is not because I’m a snob or don’t want anyone else to get into the hobby. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I love these beautiful creatures and believe that every experienced reptile hobbyist should have one (or several) at some point. The fact is green tree pythons are just not ideal for the beginning snake keeper. Their care is somewhat specialized, and the repercussions for not providing ideal care can be severe. In addition to their specialized needs, possibly because of them, they are expensive to purchase and maintain. I will attempt to outline in this article why green tree pythons do not make great first snake pets.
- Specialized care. Green tree pythons require radiant heat (from above) which is expensive to provide. They also require the “right” amount of humidity, not too much and not too little. If their heat or humidity needs are not met within a particular range they are susceptible to contracting respiratory infections. This means that the equipment necessary for proper caging is expensive, especially with only one or two animals.
- They can be temperamental. Fifteen years ago when most of the captive animals were wild caught, green tree pythons had a reputation for being very aggressive. And those wild caught animals were definitely mean and difficult to handle. Today, most captive bred offspring are actually very easy to handle. Most of my collection would be considered “docile”. However, they still don’t really enjoy being handled for extended periods of time. Most beginning snake keepers like handling their pets often and for long periods. That’s the fun part about having a pet like snakes. But most green tree pythons will not tolerate this much handling, especially the younger animals. Excess handling causes stress, which leads to biting or a lowered immune system which leads to illness. These beautiful snakes are better appreciated inside the cage than outside.
- They are relatively expensive. In the reptile hobby world, there are several less expensive snakes to start out with that have much more forgiving husbandry requirements. Green trees can range from $300 on the low end to several thousand dollars for designer types. It can be devastating for a young keeper to lose not only a living creature from an innocent mistake, but one with so much monetary value as well.
Again, while I don’t recommend green tree pythons to first time snake keepers, I do hope that experienced snake keepers with at least a full year of experience with another species will be interested in getting a green tree. They are beautiful fascinating creatures, and they tend to have personalities beyond that of most other species. They just aren’t ideal to be “learned” on.