Older Article (1992)

Amazon Tree Boas (older urbanjungles.com article)



The Amazon Tree Boa
(Corallus hortulanus) is a species often overlooked by the arboreal boid enthusiast. The main reason for this is probably due to the animalís volatile behavior as they are well reputed little nippers. But the fact of the matter is that few if any snake species, come in such highly variable colors and patterns making this one of the most beautiful display species out there. Often referred to as The poor manís emerald, this species makes a great starter snake for a would be corallus fanatic. Learning how to avoid being bitten by them is a great prerequisite to have under your belt before moving on to the larger, (more painful) emerald tree boa (Corallus caninus). And since care requirements are basically the same, once youíve mastered these guys you should have no problems moving on to the bigger boys.

Caging

Amazon tree boas vary from their larger cousins in that they are not strictly arboreal in captivity. It is not uncommon for an amazon to spend more than half of itís time coiled on the floor of the cage. In an emerald tree boa or chondro this could be cause for concern but in this case itís part of normal behavior. However, they should not spend all of their time on the floor, this could be a sign of that something is wrong. One reason for an amazon tree boa to spend considerable time on the floor is that the perches in its enclosure are inadequate. Unlike emeralds that will utilize one horizontal perch the amazon tree boa likes to have contact on at least 3 points of its body. By this I mean that they much prefer a forked branch or crook versus one horizontal perch. In my enclosures I prefer to utilize a multi branched piece of tree or corkbark slabs that are suspended by strong wires, typical of a swing. It seems to me that they seem much more comfortable when they have several points of their bodies against some sort of surface, they will often not hesitate to coil around on a ledge that overlooks the enclosure. A cage thatís vertically oriented seems to be the best for these guys. Something thatís about the equivalent of a 20 gallon extra high tank is fine for an adult animal. A cage at least 24 inches high and about 36 inches wide and 24 inches deep should be utilized for an adult pair as a minimum enclosure. I use custom made cages constructed from melamine for my snakes although I also employ the use of Neodesha 24" cages for some of the smaller specimens. Whatever cage you decide to use there is one important factor which you should think about, accessability. Any cage used for these guys should have a wide, roomy opening for the keeper to work in. This is important because with most amazon tree boas you will divide the time working in the cage with dodging dozens of little needle-like teeth on an almost constant basis. Make sure you have enough room to keep out of reach from those teeth! Often when dealing with these guys, I get more injuries from reflex dodging the snakes than any actual bites. However, you must also watch out and make sure that the snake doesnít dart out of any large enclosure openings. These guys can really move when they have to and a quick grab to prevent the animal from escaping will leave you with either one of two presents, a bunch of small needle-like bite marks or a freshly excreted, rank smelling mess ejected from those precious little musk glands that they are so fond of using. As far as cage furnishings go, I personally prefer a sterile-type environment but one has quite a bit of freedom when designing and decorating the amazon tree boaís cage. Live and plastic plants can look very nice in the enclosure and they will often be utilized as a resting spot for the snakes. However, much care should be used when feeding the snake around these decorations as to prevent any possibilities of accidental ingestion. Same goes with any naturalistic substrates one may opt for. The feeding responses on some of these guys can be quite savage and in the frenzy it is not uncommon for them to grab more than their intended prey (watch those fingers!).

Temperatures
 Temperatures and humidity for this species are almost identical to those necessary for the Emerald Tree Boa. The main difference is that the amazon tree boa is a bit more tolerant if conditions should dip below the optimum. Temperatures within the range of 76F-84F degrees are ideal. I try to attain a high of about 82F degrees and have a nighttime drop into the upper 70's. During the breeding season the temps are dropped nightly and bottom out at about 68F and the humidity is increased significantly. I try to keep an ambient of about 65-70%, this varies greatly when the animals are misted on a daily basis rising as high as 95% which is especially helpful during the shedding process. Be careful not to keep the humidity up high for too long as this will promote fungal and bacterial growth within the cage which could possibly cause infections in the snake. Lack of proper humidity will create problems such as respiratory infections and shedding problems, so you have to achieve the perfect balance.

Feeding
 Feeding these guys can be a tricky process. In my experience Iíve learned that Amazons swing in one of two directions...they are either very picky feeders refusing almost anything offered or they will eat everything in sight within 2 minutes of being placed within their cages. Luckily, the bulk of the animals I encounter tend to fall into the latter category. They will often take frozen rodents after about 4 or 5 live meals. I prefer prekilled with these guys because they are physically somewhat fragile, those long slinky bodies are susceptible to injuries from the relatively large rodent teeth that accompany their meals. I often feed frozen thawed out mice that are held up to a space heater or lightbulb for a minute or two. These beauties are especially thermosensitive, warm prey is very rarely refused. This is also something to remember when attempting to feed an amazon near the cageís heat source. The smell of the introduced prey may elicit a strike at the heat source so make sure it is well protected in order to prevent any accidental injury to your snake. Be sure to use the appropriately sized prey item. As a rule I feed the animals a mouse thatís about the same diameter as the thickest part of the snakeís body. This little rule of thumb will prevent any regurgitation problems brought on by a meal that is too large. Amazon Tree Boas have slightly faster metabolisms than their larger cousins but care should be taken not to overfeed. Be sure that the snake defecates at least once within a three meal period, if it does not, a warm bath may be necessary in order to prevent any impaction problems that may occur as a result of overfeeding. I like to feed my adults every 10-14 days and babies every 5-7 days, this schedule as worked out nicely for me so far. As far as the difficult feeders are concerned, it is often trial and error that will determine what is necessary to get your snake to feed regularly. Iíve often employed the use of small hylid treefrogs and anoles to get the proper feeding response. They can either be used to scent an appropriately sized rodent or as actual food for the snakes. Just be careful when using a frog or anole as food with these guys. They are often potential vectors for parasite infections. If a snake will only take other reptiles or amphibians as food you must then immediately begin the process of switching it over to rodents via scenting or your pet will be at high risk of a severe parasitical infection. Babies will often need to be started on small hylid frogs or anoles, but they will usually begin feeding on rodents readily within the first 3 meals or so. This is especially true of the animals hailing from the northernmost portions of hortuanusí range, for some reason these guys are especially fond of frogs. Care must be taken when feeding animals that are housed communally. I have seen many cases where one snake is accidentally killed by another when 2 animals go for the same prey item or when one tries to steal food from another. It is best to feed these guys separately or at least to closely monitor them until every last bit of evidence of a prey item is gone. One must also be careful when housing babies together as I have experienced some cannibalism in communally housed babies. If possible, keep all babies separated from each other especially during feeding time.

Finally thereís watering. I have witness my animals drinking from water bowls many times however it is very important that the bowls be readily accessible to them. I employ the use of very large water bowls that may cover up to 2/3 of the actual cage floor. When supplied with a water bowl like this, the snakes will often utilize it to soak in when going through the shedding process. Water can also be supplied via suspended water bowls in similar fashion as to what is recommended for emeralds. One important thing to remember though is that even if you do use a large water bowl this should not be a substitute for daily misting. Misting is vital to the health and well being of these guys as they will often drink from their coils when given the opportunity to do so.

 Overall, I highly encourage anyone looking for a wonderful display animal to get an amazon tree boa. With a moderate size and infinite color variability this species makes an incredible vivarium subject. Once you get around their raspy personality youíll be pleasantly surprised by the relative intelligence displayed by these creatures as well as the ease and rewards associated with the proper maintenance. Although they are notorious for their dispositions a tame amazon is not unheard of, many babies can easily be accustomed to handling. It all depends on how much time the owner is willing to spend with their pet. A word of caution about this species though, due to their attractive coloration and affordability, they can become quite addictive so be prepared.