• Check out the new Feedback and suggestions forum. This adds the ability to add ideas for the site and upvote/downvote them. It would be great to hear from you all in how we can boost site activity and who would like to assist with some exciting ideas from Rob and I.

DELWP complains about keeping diamond python outdoors in Melbourne

Timmm

New Member
Hi all,
this is my first post here (sorry, it got quite long, but I wanted to provide sufficient information) but I have been following the forum over the last year or so.

I live in Melbourne's inner north and keep a diamond python and a Murray Darling python together in an aviary-style enclosure outdoors over the warmer half of the year. So someone called DELWP and complained about snakes in my backyard. They inspected my animals and came up with a few comments that I found confusing, so I wanted to ask for your opinion. I do have the appropriate licence.

I attached a photo of the enclosure. It is 150Wx60Dx180H (in cm), has several hide boxes including one with a heat cable (during summer the heat cable is only used on cold days), it gets sun from 9am to 4pm but there is also enough shade and a water bucket to cool down if needed. The snakes look ''happy'' and healthy to me, i.e. they eat and sh*** well, shed in one piece, usually bask in the morning and then retreat to their shady hides when they are warm enough, climb around etc. I am aware that they are not native to Melbourne area but I consciously selected (sub-)species that are native to northern Victoria, so that the temperature difference is not too much. The microclimate in my backyard is also favourable in that it gets a lot of sun, it is wind protected, there is a lot of concrete around that retains heat. I asked different people and read a threat on this forum and it looks like I am not the only one who keeps diamonds outdoors in Melbourne.

Now that guy from DELWP complained that the snakes are exposed to temperatures and moisture that are beyond what they can tolerate. He told me that diamond pythons need access to 25C-28C and that they could get sick in my enclosure, that I should think about the climate in their native range (which I had done). Most days with a little sun they can quickly heat up but of course it depends on the weather. I mean, it rains in NSW too, doesn't it? Of course a bit of spray can get through the mesh but I doubt any rain gets into the hide boxes, so they can always stay dry if they want to. As I said they have a heated hide-box, and the whole enclosure is on wheels so that I can move it indoors in winter. I mentioned to him that they didn't eat over winter, which he said is a sign that I kept them too cold. Isn't it natural for them to go off food during winter? Especially with diamond pythons, I thought that constantly high temperatures are much worse than if it gets cool, isn't it? I lived in Newcastle for 4 months, so I know for a fact it's not always 25C and sunny there. We once found a wild diamond python on a cool day in a shady forest, no way was its body temperature over 20C (we were wearing jumpers).

We also keep a blue tongue lizard outdoors and that DELWP guy complained about the enclosure size. I measured it and it has 140cm x 60cm area. Isn't that reasonable?

They mentioned they might come again in a few months to check how my animals are doing. I don't really know what to expect and am somewhat anxious. Do you have any suggestions of what I might improve? Or any experience in dealing with these people? Of course I want the best for my animals, so any experiences (good or bad) in a similar setup would be appreciated.

Many thanks.
 

Attachments

  • 20210210_201627.jpg
    20210210_201627.jpg
    112.5 KB · Views: 27

Sdaji

Almost Legendary
APS Veteran
Trusted Seller
Sounds like you're doing a great job and your animals are doing well. The idiot from the department has no clue what he's talking about.

Yes, obviously they can handle temperatures under 25 degrees. I've seen tropical pythons including Jungles and Coastals (including Cape York variants) in the far north of Australia activity foraging with body temperatures well below 25, and it's not unusual, it's just a routine thing to see even in the middle of January/February.

These taxa can be kept outside year round in Melbourne without supplemental heating, and you're giving them supplemental heating.

This is the sort of thing which makes the licensing system a problem. People in authority with no idea what they're talking about telling passionate enthusiasts what to do, which obviously isn't doing anyone any favours and encourages people to stay outside the system. Plenty of people stay off license for exactly this sort of reason, along with several others.
 

Timmm

New Member
Sounds like you're doing a great job and your animals are doing well. The idiot from the department has no clue what he's talking about.

Yes, obviously they can handle temperatures under 25 degrees. I've seen tropical pythons including Jungles and Coastals (including Cape York variants) in the far north of Australia activity foraging with body temperatures well below 25, and it's not unusual, it's just a routine thing to see even in the middle of January/February.

These taxa can be kept outside year round in Melbourne without supplemental heating, and you're giving them supplemental heating.

This is the sort of thing which makes the licensing system a problem. People in authority with no idea what they're talking about telling passionate enthusiasts what to do, which obviously isn't doing anyone any favours and encourages people to stay outside the system. Plenty of people stay off license for exactly this sort of reason, along with several others.
Thanks for your response Sdaji, sounds reassuring. Do you have any idea what I should do if they come back in a few months, now that I'm on their ''watch-list''? They wrote ''Should Officers have concerns in the future it is likely a more formal direction will be issued''. If they want to issue a formal direction, then I expect they would have to be specific about what changes I have to make, but who knows.

Another issue the officer mentioned was potential breeding (I didn't know it when I bought them, but they happen to be a pair). Apparently interbreeding of the two taxa is not legal because they ''don't meet in the wild''. I don't want to breed them and in the worst case of an unwanted clutch would probably freeze the eggs. However, it made me wonder if they really don't meet in the wild. I understand Murray Darlings are west of the great dividing range and diamonds east, but I think they should meet somewhere in the middle. When you look at distribution maps of Morelia spilota (the whole species), there is never a gap if you e.g. start in Newcastle and then go inland. So there should somewhere be a more or less abrupt change from spilota to metcalfei. It doesn't look to me like the mountains at that latitude are so insurmountable to carpet pythons that the two don't meet. However, unlike diamond/coastals, I have never heard of natural diamond/Murray Darling intergrades.
 

Sdaji

Almost Legendary
APS Veteran
Trusted Seller
Thanks for your response Sdaji, sounds reassuring. Do you have any idea what I should do if they come back in a few months, now that I'm on their ''watch-list''? They wrote ''Should Officers have concerns in the future it is likely a more formal direction will be issued''. If they want to issue a formal direction, then I expect they would have to be specific about what changes I have to make, but who knows.

Another issue the officer mentioned was potential breeding (I didn't know it when I bought them, but they happen to be a pair). Apparently interbreeding of the two taxa is not legal because they ''don't meet in the wild''. I don't want to breed them and in the worst case of an unwanted clutch would probably freeze the eggs. However, it made me wonder if they really don't meet in the wild. I understand Murray Darlings are west of the great dividing range and diamonds east, but I think they should meet somewhere in the middle. When you look at distribution maps of Morelia spilota (the whole species), there is never a gap if you e.g. start in Newcastle and then go inland. So there should somewhere be a more or less abrupt change from spilota to metcalfei. It doesn't look to me like the mountains at that latitude are so insurmountable to carpet pythons that the two don't meet. However, unlike diamond/coastals, I have never heard of natural diamond/Murray Darling intergrades.

As for the husbandry, I'd personally be torn between giving him a lecture which would make him look like a moron, or on the other hand phrasing it in a way which made it clear I was caring for them perfectly well, he should drop the issue, but allow him to save face. I'd most likely go for the latter, but I'd make it clear that if he challenged me with it on any level I'd take him to task and make him regret it. I think I'd personally just have to mention that after I'd obtained my degree in biological science I did an honours year in thermal biology, specifically examining the thermal requirements of ectothermic animals and wrote a thesis on the subject, and he'd probably back down, but I'd happily have the discussion in person.

As for keeping them together, I agree, it's best not to. Whether or not they meet in the wild is utterly irrelevant to anything other than an idiotic load of nonsense some people obsess over. I love locality animals, but if it's okay to breed different localities which never naturally come into contact, what's the issue here? People all over Australia now openly breed any Carpet with any other Carpet, so it's weird to single you out in this case. I wouldn't particularly care about you doing it, and I know plenty of people do similar things, openly sell the hybrid offspring etc, but it's best not to, and I personally don't like the idea of making eggs you're going to freeze.

As for hybrids in wild (these would generally be incorrectly be referred to as integrades by most herpers), sure, the occasional individual will make the trip into the wrong territory. Rare, but it no doubt happens. Even more rare, hybrids would naturally be created. Generally, these hybrids wouldn't be suited to either side of the range (the wetter east side or arid west side) and would fail to thrive, and generally die without reproducing. Probably the extremely rare hybrid does manage to find a mate and breed, the in those cases the back cross offspring would have a better chance of surviving on the side the majority of their genetic makeup's preffered side, and there is probably a very small amount of gene flow across the Great Dividing Range. I see no relevance to captive animals.

Snakes eat each other in the wild. They get parasites, they have famine years where many starve to death, many die of the cold in winter. Is any of this relevant? 'It does/doesn't happen in the wild' is a red herring if ever there was one.
 

Timmm

New Member
As for the husbandry, I'd personally be torn between giving him a lecture which would make him look like a moron, or on the other hand phrasing it in a way which made it clear I was caring for them perfectly well, he should drop the issue, but allow him to save face. I'd most likely go for the latter, but I'd make it clear that if he challenged me with it on any level I'd take him to task and make him regret it. I think I'd personally just have to mention that after I'd obtained my degree in biological science I did an honours year in thermal biology, specifically examining the thermal requirements of ectothermic animals and wrote a thesis on the subject, and he'd probably back down, but I'd happily have the discussion in person.

As for keeping them together, I agree, it's best not to. Whether or not they meet in the wild is utterly irrelevant to anything other than an idiotic load of nonsense some people obsess over. I love locality animals, but if it's okay to breed different localities which never naturally come into contact, what's the issue here? People all over Australia now openly breed any Carpet with any other Carpet, so it's weird to single you out in this case. I wouldn't particularly care about you doing it, and I know plenty of people do similar things, openly sell the hybrid offspring etc, but it's best not to, and I personally don't like the idea of making eggs you're going to freeze.

As for hybrids in wild (these would generally be incorrectly be referred to as integrades by most herpers), sure, the occasional individual will make the trip into the wrong territory. Rare, but it no doubt happens. Even more rare, hybrids would naturally be created. Generally, these hybrids wouldn't be suited to either side of the range (the wetter east side or arid west side) and would fail to thrive, and generally die without reproducing. Probably the extremely rare hybrid does manage to find a mate and breed, the in those cases the back cross offspring would have a better chance of surviving on the side the majority of their genetic makeup's preffered side, and there is probably a very small amount of gene flow across the Great Dividing Range. I see no relevance to captive animals.

Snakes eat each other in the wild. They get parasites, they have famine years where many starve to death, many die of the cold in winter. Is any of this relevant? 'It does/doesn't happen in the wild' is a red herring if ever there was one.
Ok, I will try to carefully convince him if he comes again. I'm pretty sure my snakes have a better live expectancy than in the wild (plenty of food, no predators, no cars etc.).

Regarding the interbreeding, the way I understood him all those Bredli albinos (bredli/Darwin hybrids), moonglows (coastal/Darwin) etc. are strictly speaking illegal, at least in Victoria. Most people seem to get away with it but you can get caught/singled out if you are unlucky. But now you seem to confirm that diamonds and Murray Darlings do, if rarely, meet in the wild, so I will try to make that point.

Yeah, freezing eggs is not my favourite solution and it was never planned. I bought two ''males'' until the diamond laid a surprise clutch of unfertilised eggs. I sort of accepted the risk though. At the time of laying, there is not really a living snake in the egg yet, or is there? As for the energy demand on the mother, I figured she already laid 20 eggs without the help of the male, so it probably doesn't make that much difference. Somewhat surprisingly, the officer was happy for me to freeze the eggs as a humane way of avoiding hybrids.

I am aware that keeping snakes together is controversial. One of the things that made me do it, was when I saw that in Melbourne Zoo they have so many exhibits with multiple snakes in it, including known snake-eaters such as monocled cobras.
 

Sdaji

Almost Legendary
APS Veteran
Trusted Seller
As I said, I don't really see the relevance of snakes doing anything in particular in the wild. You can hybridise a Black-headed Python and a Carpet Python or a Carpet with a Chondro or a Carpet with a Water Python if you want to. These all meet up in the wild, but that's irrelevant.

Your snakes, your choice, don't get me wrong. I don't think you should be keeping them together but hey, I'm not losing sleep over it.

I don't think you're doing yourself any favours in terms of convincing them you're being responsible with the housing when you're simultaneously doing other things almost everyone considers to be bad. It'll definitely harm your credibility and it's the sort of thing which will make them single you out for things which they generally wouldn't even bother mentioning.
 

Timmm

New Member
What exactly do you mean with ''almost everyone considers to be bad''? Keeping 2 snakes together in the same enclosure, keeping two different subspecies together, freezing unwanted eggs or something else? Actually, the egg freezing was his suggestion, not mine. He basically said that if they happen to lay eggs, I should make sure to freeze them. Which surprised me, because it seemed to me like hybrids between carpet subspecies are extremely widespread in captivity.

To be clear, I am open to doing things differently if there is a good reason for it. I am actually from Germany and only moved here two years ago, so there might be differences between how I learned it in Germany and how it's usually done here. It was just confusing to talk to that guy because he seemed unhappy that I kept the pythons outdoors during summer, but didn't mention anything specific that I have to change (except for the blue tongue lizard enclosure, which at 140x60cm isn't that small, or is it?). He could for instance have said that I have to separate them, but he didn't say that.

I get your point that what happens in nature is not relevant here. I was just asking because them not meeting in nature was his reason for why breeding them is not ok. But this seemed factually incorrect to me when I looked at the distribution maps, so I wanted to ask some more experienced people if I got this right.

By the way, were you serious about hybrids between carpet and water and blackheaded pythons?
 

Sdaji

Almost Legendary
APS Veteran
Trusted Seller
What exactly do you mean with ''almost everyone considers to be bad''? Keeping 2 snakes together in the same enclosure, keeping two different subspecies together, freezing unwanted eggs or something else? Actually, the egg freezing was his suggestion, not mine. He basically said that if they happen to lay eggs, I should make sure to freeze them. Which surprised me, because it seemed to me like hybrids between carpet subspecies are extremely widespread in captivity.

To be clear, I am open to doing things differently if there is a good reason for it. I am actually from Germany and only moved here two years ago, so there might be differences between how I learned it in Germany and how it's usually done here. It was just confusing to talk to that guy because he seemed unhappy that I kept the pythons outdoors during summer, but didn't mention anything specific that I have to change (except for the blue tongue lizard enclosure, which at 140x60cm isn't that small, or is it?). He could for instance have said that I have to separate them, but he didn't say that.

I get your point that what happens in nature is not relevant here. I was just asking because them not meeting in nature was his reason for why breeding them is not ok. But this seemed factually incorrect to me when I looked at the distribution maps, so I wanted to ask some more experienced people if I got this right.

By the way, were you serious about hybrids between carpet and water and blackheaded pythons?
Most keepers heavily frown on cohabiting snakes (I'm personally not too fussed). Mixing taxa is also frowned upon, and while I'm not particularly fussed about it, I think it's not a good idea. Yes, most keepers would think it abhorrent to set yourself up to likely produce eggs which you would be freezing, which is one of the reasons not to keep them together.

I agree, at least based on what you're saying, the husbandry seems fine. 140 x 60 floor area is fine for most Tiliqua taxa as long as it's set up well.

The distribution map doesn't highlight the big geographical and climatic barrier separating the taxa (again, not that it's relevant).

Yes, those hybrids are perfectly possible. You can cross any of those species with even more distant species sucu as, say, African Ball Pythons. Needless to say, no Australian python will naturally come into contact with anything in Africa, which again, is irrelevant.
 
Top