Pocomoke City Discovers Reptiles Alive!

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Last Saturday morning, March 20th, I packed up the Reptiles Alive van full of great animals including Sunshine the python, Logan the Nile monitor lizard, and B.A. the alligator.  We  drove across the Chesapeake Bay down to Pocomoke City, MD – home to the Delmarva Discovery Center.

Pocomoke is a historic Eastern Shore town located right on the Pocomoke River. Last year, the awesome new Delmarva Discovery Center (DDC) opened to the public. The DDC features exhibits that tell the story of the Delmarva’s natural and cultural history.
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As we set up and got ready, we had a huge crowd excitedly waiting to see the first show.
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We started each of the three shows that day with a couple of animals native to the Eastern Shore: Lucky our black rat snake and T Rex the snapping turtle.100_1325

Then we featured an animal from the other side of our planet: the Australian blue tongue skink, Mystique. Next, we learned why we should all be really grateful there are no mommy pizzas when we met Logan the Nile monitor lizard.
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The alligator B.A. (which stands for “Bad Attitude” helped us learn alligator love songs. Last but definitely not least, we met Sunshine, our albino Burmese python. The audience, as usual, went wild for Sunshine.

Big thanks go to the Delmarva Discovery Center for hosting this fun reptile festival. We are hoping to make this an annual event, so start planning your trip to Pocomoke City for next year.

Creature Feature: Burmese Python

Burmese Python

Python molurus bivittatus

Reptiles Alive Names: “Sunshine, Moonlight, and Starlight”

Hissstory: Sunshine was abandoned at a carpet warehouse in Sterling, VA in 2000.  The store owner called us to come and get her, and she was in pretty bad shape.  We spent about a year rehabilitating her back to health.  She has been healthy and growing ever since!  Moonlight was rescued by the Virginia Reptile Rescue from a pet store that was closed down and we adopted him in 2009.  Starlight was abandoned  as an unwanted pet at the Alexandria Animal Welfare League where we adopted him in 2009.
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RA Diet: Two or three frozen and then defrosted triple extra large rats every 2-4 weeks.

Range: India, Burma, and Southeast Asia.

Habitat: Pythons live in rain forests, farmlands, and fields.

Natural Diet: Burmese pythons will eat just about any mammal or bird they can fit into their stomach.

Size: Burmese pythons are one of the biggest snakes in the world.   Their average length is 9-13 feet, but the record length is 23 feet.  They can weigh over 200 pounds.

Lifespan: Burmese pythons can live over 40 years.

Reproduction: Female Burmese pythons can lay up to 100 large eggs, but typically lay 12-36. Unlike most snakes,  mother pythons will coil around eggs and twitch their body to raise the temperature and help incubate the eggs. She will not leave the eggs until they hatch.

Conservation: Burmese pythons  have become an invasive exotic species in southern Florida.  People keeping pythons as pets either illegally released their unwanted animals into the wild or the snakes escaped improper caging.  Either way, no one knows for sure the impact these giant snakes will have on the south Florida ecosystem as they reproduce and consume native animals, including alligators.

Cool Facts:
 Sunshine, Moonlight, and Starlight are all albinos, born without the black or brown pigment called melanin. The brilliant yellows and whites you see on our albino pythons would otherwise be covered over by the brown and black pigments  found on normally patterned snakes.

Creature Feature: Ball Python

Ball Python

Python regius

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Reptiles Alive Name: “Wilson”

Hisssstory: Wilson was an unwanted pet that we received in June 1998.

RA Diet: Wilson gets to eat medium size frozen and then defrosted rats.  Yummy!

Natural Diet: Birds and mammals.

Range: West Africa.

Habitat: Dry forests and grasslands.

Size: Grows to be an average of 4-5 feet, record of 6.5 feet

Lifespan: Known to live nearly 50 years.

Reproduction: Ball pythons mate in the fall, then after 140 days, the female will lay 6-8 eggs which hatch in about two months.  Unlike most snakes, female ball pythons will usually coil around their eggs and protect them until they hatch.

Conservation: Ball pythons face habitat loss and are sometimes hunted for food and the pet trade.

Cool Facts: Pythons, boas and pit vipers have heat sensing pits near their mouths allowing them to see heat! This special ability helps the snakes capture warm blooded prey in complete darkness.

Sunshine Status

Some of you may know that Sunshine, our albino Burmese python, was diagnosed with a bacterial lung infection a few months ago and was on sick leave for about 3 months.  She has made a full recovery and is back at work right now at the Celebrate Fairfax festival.

Back in early March, we noticed Sunshine seemed a bit congested, so we took her to see Dr. Emily Hoppmann, a DVM who specializes in exotic animals, including snakes.  So, you could actually call her a “snake doctor.”  She works at SEAVS (Stahl Exotic Animal Veterinary Services) which is nationally renowned exotic animal clinic located in Vienna, VA.

Dr. Hoppmann examined Sunshine and took a nasal culture to be sent for testing.  Sunshine tested positive for two types of bacteria that can cause respiratory disease in snakes.  Two antibiotics were prescribed and every day for about 30 days, we had to give Sunshine a shot.  She didn’t get a lollipop after her shots, but she did get better.

After Sunshine was finsished with her medicine, we wanted to wait until she had rested for awhile before taking her to work.  Sunshine is now doing great – she is eating lots of defrosted frozen rats and is very active.

We also learned two things about her from Dr. Hoppmann.  One, Sunshine IS a GIRL!  We actually didn’t know for sure until now.  Two,  Sunshine is getting to be a senior citizen.  Dr. Hoppmann explained that most albino Burmese pythons live around 20 years or so, and Sunshine is around 16.

We are so grateful to Dr. Hoppmann and all of the great reptile vets at SEAVS.  Thank you all for helping Reptiles Alive keep our reptiles alive!

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