Scientific Name: Morelia carinata
Kim Phillips, Artamon, NSW
The Australian Reptile Park has developed a major research and captive breeding program for this species with assistance from the Western Australian conservation department, CALM. Numerous trips have been made to the snake's natural range to study it in the field and collect specimens, the only ones currently in captivity anywhere in the world. Just reaching the study site is a major operation requiring the use of domestic airliners, light aircraft, helicopters and boats transporting everything that would be required to survive in this remotest area of Australia for several weeks at a time.
Probably the rarest snake in Australia, the rough-scaled python is only known from around ten snakes captured in the wild. The general colour is dark brown with pale brown blotches. Towards the tail the pale blotches become larger so that the pattern appears to be reversed with a pale background and darker blotches. The head is conspicuously triangular with an obvious constricted neck area. Each scale has a keel or ridge running along its centre giving the snake its common name and a rough, sandpaper feel. With so few known specimens it is difficult to say what the maximum size of the species is, however, all snakes so far have been less than 2m in length.
Restricted to the small patches of monsoonal rainforest in the far northwestern Kimberley region of Western Australia, the rough-scaled python has one of the smallest distributions of any snake. At this stage, virtually nothing is known of its biology but it appears to spend its time in the tops of trees or in sandstone caves and crevices becoming active at night in search of food.
In captivity the species will eventually learn to accept mice and rats. One specimen collected in the wild regurgitated its last meal a small native rock rat, apart from this observation nothing further is known about its diet. The species possess possibly the longest teeth of any snake, particularly in relation to body size. This is probably an adaptation to allow the rough-scaled python to penetrate through the fur or feathers of its intended meal and maintain its grip until the prey has been enveloped in the snake's coils.
The Australian Reptile Park succeeded in breeding this species in captivity for the first time in January 2001. This is the only details that are currently available concerning the reproduction in this species. Mating was not observed but probably took place in July or August, with a clutch of ten eggs laid in October. All ten successfully hatched on the 1st January.