We're beginning a new feature on The Doings called the "Brookfield Zoo animal spotlight." Each time, we will feature one (or more) Brookfield Zoo animals and give you some background information about the animal(s), its species, its family and its connection to the zoo!
Animal names: Sierra (female) and Strike (gender still unknown)
Species: Green tree pythons
Birth dates: Sierra was born at Lincoln Park Zoo on June 18, 1999. Although Strike’s date of birth is unknown, Strike was the size of a pencil and weighed less than an ounce on arrival from Boca Raton, Florida.
How long have these animals been at the zoo: Sierra arrived on November 13, 2001. Strike arrived on December 13, 2011.
Q: Where in the world are these pythons found?
A: They are found in the land “down under,” mainly in New Guinea, the islands of Indonesia and in the Cape York Peninsula in Australia. At Brookfield Zoo, you can find them in Australia House.
Q: Give us a bit of background on this species.
A: These pythons are fully equipped to maneuver around a rainforest. They climb, hide and even have a special sensor. Green tree pythons are primarily arboreal, which means they live mainly in trees. Their strong prehensile tail helps them hang onto and drape from branches giving them incredible striking distance from up above. In the wild, their diet consists of rodents, sometimes birds and even other reptiles. Green tree pythons use their thermosensory pits along the labial scales on their head to locate food and sense danger. This feature allows them to detect if a warm or cold-blooded animal is approaching.
Q: Do Sierra and Strike have any other family at the zoo?
A: These are the only two species of their kind here at Brookfield Zoo.
Q: How do these pythons’ interact with people at the zoo?
A: “Two rodents, please!” That’s what they would say if they could talk. The keepers at Australia House feed them by dangling prey at the end of a long feeding stick. The snakes strike at it and take it. They are each fed once a week.
Q: Why is it important to learn more about green tree pythons?
A: Although they are not considered endangered in the wild, they are still exposed to dangers such as habitat destruction, human interference and predators. Having them here at Brookfield Zoo reminds our guests about our commitment to Australian wildlife and their habitats. In 1933, the Chicago Zoological Society broke ground on Australia House, the first exhibit dedicated to Australian animals outside of Australia. You can also visit the Brookfield Conservation Park in Australia, which is a conservation park created by the Society in the mid-1960s and donated to the Australian government.
Q: Anything else that you want to say about these animals?
A: When you think of female pythons you think of a wrap and a clutch, but not in the fashion sense. When females lay eggs, the bunch is called a “clutch.” Then, to keep them warm during the incubation period, she will wrap her body around them and will increase her body temperature by shivering. The average adult size is four to five feet long.
Although they are true to their namesake most of the time (green), that is not always the case with green tree pythons. When Strike first arrived he/she was a dark red color and is now more yellow than green. The color will continue to gradually change until full maturity. Some pythons will turn bright green and others might even be blue.
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