Open Access Repository

Development of a protocol for the commercial production of the juvenile Tasmanian tiger snake, Notechis ater

Sinclair, AM 1999 , 'Development of a protocol for the commercial production of the juvenile Tasmanian tiger snake, Notechis ater', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

PDF (Whole thesis)
whole_SinclairA...pdf | Download (17MB)
Available under University of Tasmania Standard License.

| Preview


This study investigated the commercial production of the Tasmanian Tiger Snake, Notechis ater (Serpentes: Elapidae ). Snakes were obtained from isolated populations located on various islands in Bass Strait and the mainland of Tasmania, to determine the most suitable population for production. Snakes from two islands, Forsyth and Christmas Island, proved most suitable for use as breeding stock, while N. ater obtained from mainland Tasmania proved unsuitable for commercial production.
Aspects of herpetofaunal husbandry traditionally adopted by amateur herpetologists were modified to achieve cost effective production for a prospective export market. Feeding, housing and some aspects of reptile behaviour were assessed and modified to optimise the growth of juvenile N. ater to a marketable size.
Feeding trials were conducted to determine the optimum feeding frequency and quantity within commercial constraints. An initial study determined that the estimated food requirements were an order of magnitude lower than needed. Consequently, a modified ad libitum method was used to determine the optimum frequency of food intake for cost effective growth. Weekly feeding patterns were found to be suitable for commercially acceptable growth rates, but did not meet the maximum growth rates achieved by amateurs. Production of sufficient live food was identified as a prohibitive cost.
To reduce the burden of producing a live food source, several alternative artificial foods were tested. Food conversion efficiency, production costs, external and internal health of the snakes and ease of production of the traditional food (mice) and alternative food were assessed. Initial work indicated that a sausage based on salmon food could be used to replace mice as the staple diet. After 10 months on this diet, growth rates were similar to those of snakes maintained on mice, with increased food conversion efficiency and decreased cost of food production. Assessment of internal tissues suggested that long term use of salmon food may cause minor changes to some organs, but there were no significant limitations on the commercial production of juvenile N. ater.
In conjunction with food development, caging was upgraded from pre-existing cardboard cages kept at constant temperature in a poorly insulated room, to plastic cages maintained on a variable temperature gradient in a well insulated room. Heating deviated from traditional heating equipment such as infra red heat lamps and heat pads. Under floor heating was applied at one end of each cage using a heat wire, supplying each snake with a suitable heat gradient without unnecessarily heating the remaining cage space or work room. The switch to variable temperature and plastic caging did not increase growth rates, but was beneficial through reduced maintenance, increased cage life, more efficient heat delivery, improved thermoregulation opportunity for the snakes, and increased employee comfort. When combined with the use of salmon food, growth again was not significantly improved, but general hygiene conditions and food conversion rates improved markedly.
To enable continuous growth during winter months, torpor was bypassed by maintaining summer temperatures and light regimes. However, torpor was assessed for use as a temporary storage option by placing some stock in a state of torpor, removing husbandry requirements, but also halting growth during this period. Increased growth rates occurred immediately following torpor, but were insufficient to remove the partial growth check within a twelve month period. More snakes could be maintained by rotating all stock through a period of torpor, but further analysis of extra husbandry costs from increased time to market would be needed.
The commercial nature of this work restricted spending on research and development; therefore all work was carried within tight financial constraints, restricting methodology and the range of work completed. However, a cost effective system was developed within these parameters that provided growth rates similar to those achieved at far greater cost by amateurs while minimising stock loss through streamlined husbandry techniques.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Sinclair, AM
Keywords: Snake culture
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1999 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (MSc)--University of Tasmania, 1999. Includes bibliographical references

Item Statistics: View statistics for this item

Actions (login required)

Item Control Page Item Control Page