Breeding Treeboas

Typical to most boids, there is a simple "formula" that can be followed which mimics the natural seasonal changes which trigger breeding behavior, however this is but a small fraction of what is necessary for the successful breeding of treeboas belonging to the genus Corallus. The most important ingredient is patience, as with anything else Corallus. Breeding occurs biennially and will only be successful in those animals that are well acclimated to a captive environment and in the best health. First and foremost it is imperative that you begin with animals that are sexually mature as well as in perfect health. The latter probably deserves the most emphasis because most animals will not begin the proper breeding behavior unless they are fit enough to undergo the rigors of stress and the fasting that is so common in males of this genus. It is important that a good fat reserve is built up to carry them during these lean times, this is also important for females in the sense that ovulation may not successfully occur if the females weight is inadequate. Although most females will initially feed during their pregnancy, most will go off feed during the latter portion of their term (usually the last 3rd) and so a good fat reserve will help the female carry on until parturition occurs. As mentioned earlier, it is important that you are working with animals that are sexually mature in order to maximize the possibility of success in reproducing this species. Captive born specimens should be at least 4-5 years of age and imported specimens should exceed 4.5 feet in length. This size range ensures that the animals are sexually mature and capable of reproduction however it does not guarantee anything. As a rule, imports should be thriving and trouble free for at least 1 year before attempting to breed them, rushing things may only endanger them.

Off-season Maintenance
From about May to November I keep adults separated in their own individual enclosures which aids in stimulation when they are introduced in the beginning of December, this also makes it easier for me to monitor their individual progress. For the most part, they are kept on maintenance diets which consist of a small weanling rat about every 14-20 days for emerald tree boas and every 10-14 days for Amazons which are fed smaller "fuzzy" rats. As a whole I like to keep females very well fed and the males a bit on the thinner side. I've noticed that obese males rarely ever engage in any courtship behavior. Large, vertical indentations caused by folding scales are a sure sign of obesity and you should immediately cut back on feedings. It's my opinion that we grossly overfeed some Corallus in captivity, especially emerald tree boas which suffer no ill effects from fasting for several weeks at a time providing they are in perfect health. Throughout the off-season the environment remains somewhat steady with daytime temperatures peaking at about 83- 84F and nighttime lows dropping no less than about 77F. This is important because you'll want to widen this gradient later on come the breeding season. Humidity should remain relatively constant and not drop below 60% at any time in order to prevent the risk of a respiratory infection, it should peak at about 85-90% during the day and back down to the upper 60 percentile during the evenings. Remember to keep a good airflow within the enclosure, the key to proper Corallus maintenance is achieving the proper relationship between airflow and humidity.

Seasonal Cooling
Around early November, I begin to gradually drop my evening temperatures from the stable 77-78F of the summer season until a night time low of about 70-72F is achieved by the first week of December. It is vital that you do this GRADUALLY, perhaps dropping 1-2F during the evening hours, to drastic of a change will bring about complications. At times my temperatures may drop as low as 68F but I don't advice a dip quite this low, just know that these levels may be reached but the threshold doesn't lie much farther beyond that. It is imperative that during the day a daytime high temperature (DTH) of about 83-85F is achieved in order to offset the night time lows (NTL) which prevent any risk of respiratory infections. A basking spot with a higher temperature may be provided as long as there is an adequate retreat that will reduce the risk of overheating, the basking spot will also prove useful for the soon-to-be gestating females. Around this time I also set my misting systems to begin spraying about 6 times a day at 1 minute intervals throughout the day. It is important that humidity levels peak at or near 100% and drop down to about 70% in a 24 hour cycle. During these times of high humidity be sure to monitor your air quality in order to prevent mold or fungal growth within the cage. As long as the air within the enclosure does not become stagnant this will not occur. This setting is kept until about mid May when the breeding season begins to wain. Afterwards the misting system is returned to 2 spraying cycles that last about 2-3 minutes each. After about 2 months of exposure to the temperature gradient and increased humidity most males will begin to display courtship behavior, in most cases it comes about after a shed. Courtship behavior consists of tail-writhing all over the enclosure and if you look closely you will easily notice his spurs feverishly stroking whatever his vent comes in contact with. At this time you can introduce the pairs and the male will begin to spur the female which will stimulate ovulation and eventually bring about her readiness to mate. I prefer to introduce females into males' cages as this way the male will not be disrupted and continue to court which is necessary to achieve the proper breeding stimuli in the female. Initially, a female may be reluctant to accept the male's advances but with enough courtship she will eventually come around. It is helpful to wait until the female has just completed a slough which will ensure a strong pheromone presence and aid in breeding stimulation. Usually around March to April you may see the pairs actively copulating. Don't be alarmed if it doesn't happen immediately upon introduction, sometimes it takes Corallus a while to "wake up" and start breeding, on the other hand it may happen immediately..there is no set formula for this. Multiple copulations usually ensure pregnancy so it is very important to not disturb them during these rituals. Multiple males may help to increase a breeding response although this can be a dangerous undertaking, never leave two males unattended during this portion of the season as it may result in the death of one. A recently shed skin placed within the cage of a conditioned male may bring about the desired response without the risk. Some males may be overly aggressive when mating with the females so keep an eye out for breeding stress which will result in the female forced to the floor of the cage. Prolonged stress will eventually become detrimental to the female's health and breeding success as well, if frequent it is best to separate the pairs and allow for a resting period of several weeks after which the female may be re-introduced.

Success !                                                                                                                  
Several weeks after witnessing copulation obvious swelling will be present in the female, this will be the point of ovulation. Ovulation will usually occur anywhere from 2 to 3 months after a successful mating but as with everything else involved with this genus, there are e
xceptions to this rule. I personally had one female ovulate and give birth to 1 live and several stillborn babies even thought she had NO CONTACT with any males for over a year. Soon after ovulation the females girth will return to a more laterally compressed shape and you may notice that she will spend more and more time basking after this point. A few weeks later (about 20-40 days) she may undergo a post ovulatory shed, this is a good indication of pregnancy although as usual, it does not necessarily mean she's not gravid if she doesn't undergo this shed. A good sign of pregnancy is that she will soon seek out a higher heat gradient under which she will bask while her developing embryos grow. It's important that you provide a basking area of about 95F, a higher temperature can be provided as long as there is an adequate gradient which will allow her to retreat to about 70-75F when she feels the need to. Radiant heat panels and ceramic fixtures work best for providing the necessary environment for a basking female. You'll want one of these heat sources over an incandescent bulb for the main reason being that no light is emitted and the basking area can be provided on a 24 hour basis. Some breeders choose to shut the basking lights/areas off in the evenings but I have never chosen to do so with excellent results. Upon confirmation of the gravid state of a female, I return temperature and misting regimens back to the off season mode which is characterized by milder fluctuations and less frequent mistings which in turn mean a lower mean humidity. Gestation in Corallus varies considerably but for most species a time frame of about 200 days will pass before the embryos go full-term and are born, this is all dependent upon how many degree-days are allowed (the amount of time she basks). Based upon personal data and some of that submitted by my colleagues it seems that the average time frame between ovulation and parturition falls within 175-225 days. A few weeks prior to giving birth the female will eventually start to move away from the heat source and go into a pre-parturate shed, this shed can be expected anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks prior to parturition. A shed may not always occur prior to giving birth but a good sign is that she will be unusually aggressive, especially given the placid nature of most Corallus (kidding). Usually like clockwork, about 2 weeks after the shed, she will move to a high position within the enclosure and give birth to live babies. At this time the neonates should be immediately removed and placed in individual containers as cannibalism between the mother and her offspring has been noted in emerald tree boas, it is not known at this point if this may be an accidental incident as many animals are known to ingest stillborn young and unfertilized ova in efforts to gain back many of the lost nutrients of this biologically expensive ordeal. The approximate time frame given above can almost always be shortened slightly for Amazon tree boas. On average parturition can occur as early as 150 days after ovulation in Amazon tree boas and pre-parturate shed are less common. This is no surprise given the relatively fast metabolisms that Amazon tree boas display.

After birth, normal feeding schedules may resume for the female with the exception that you'll want to start off with smaller-than-normal prey in order to not overtax the female's delicate digestive system as in most cases the females will be recovering from a brief pre-parturate fast. In most cases I have also noticed that post-parturate females will readily, even eagerly except their first meals.

After the birth of your neonate Corallus is complete, it is vital that you sit back, take a deep breath and enjoy the beauty of what you have just witnessed for I can think of few sights that are as breathtaking and gratifying. Although the genus as a whole is regarded as difficult to successfully reproduce it is not an impossible undertaking and as long as much TLC and patience is provided, the task at hand is not a difficult one.

 * I would like to thank members of the Corallus mailing list for their assistance in this article

 Copywritten 2000 Danny Mendez This article may not be reproduced wholly or in part without expressed written consent