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Chennai may become a python-breeding hub

Vani Doraisamy

Zoo Authority impressed with conservation efforts



BORN IN CAPTIVITY: An adult Indian rock python at the Chennai Snake Park.

CHENNAI: : The Central Zoo Authority has accepted in principle a proposal to make Chennai the nodal point for captive breeding of endangered pythons.

A task force constituted by the Conference of Directors of Southern Zoos held in Thiruvananthapuram in February recommended to the CZA that the Chennai Snake Park, the Arignar Anna Zoological Park (AAZP) and the Madras Crocodile Bank be made dedicated centres for captive breeding of Indian rock python (Python Molorus) and reticulated python (Python Reticulatus).

The other participating centre will be the Mysore Zoo.

``The CZA was impressed with the conservation and captive breeding experiments being carried out in Chennai and has asked us for a consolidated proposal for captive breeding of pythons which will be forwarded to them soon,'' Dr. P. C. Thyagi, Director, AAZP, said.

If the proposal came through, conservation strategies would focus on enhancing breeding stocks and identifying breeding profiles in the participating zoos.

Poor technical knowledge

``There is very little technical knowledge of captive breeding of pythons and a lot of research has to be generated. We have only captive stocks that have succumbed to ``inbreeding depression,'' negatively impacting fertility rates. Only a coordinated conservation strategy can better the stocks,'' said Mr. B. Vijayaraghavan, Chairman, Chennai Snake Park Trust.

The Snake Park houses 19 reticulates and seven rock pythons.

Of the two species, the rock python's captive breeding record has been abysmal. The Snake Park has seen no birth for the past four years. The reptiles either did not mate or the eggs were infertile.

``We have to think of enhancing the genetic profile through exchange programmes with other Indian or foreign zoos or permitted wild captures. Once the CZA makes a formal notification, we will evolve an action plan through which, at a later stage, it may even be possible to release some captive-bred specimen into the wild,'' Mr. Vijayaraghavan said.

Rock pythons are commonly found in the wild, while the reticulates are mostly confined to the northeast. There are no exact figures for the pythons in Indian jungles. The number has been rapidly dwindling, mostly due to habitat destruction.

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