1. COMMON CHONDRO LABELS AND ACRONYMS
There are many labels used to describe chondros. Terms like Import, Farm Bred, and Captive Born can be confusing and misleading so you should clearly understand them. They can be the single most important factor to your success. There are also terms that describe physical characteristics and lineage. Some examples are Locality Type, Designer, and Outcross.
Imported (IMP), Wild Caught (WC), and Long Term Captive (LTC)
All of these labels represent wild caught animals legally exported from Papua New Guinea (PNG) before a change in law. Today it is illegal to collect and export wild GTP’s in PNG or West Papua (Irian Jaya). But illegal collection and exportation still happens.
Farm Bred (FB)
In West Papua it is legal to export GTP’s if they are farm bred. Terraria Indonesia is a farm that supplies chondros to Bushmaster Reptiles in the USA. Bushmaster is the best known and most trusted importer of farm bred animals in the United States. While Terraria Indonesia and Bushmaster represent well-run operations with established quality controls, many “farms” exploit laws that allow exportation of green tree pythons. These “farms” pay locals to collect wild snakes, which are then kept at their facility for a period of time. Later, these animals are shipped as legal farm bred stock. Simply stated, most breeding farms in Indonesia launder illegally caught wildlife. It is estimated that up to 80% of exported GTP’s are illegally caught, and that 40% to 50 % will die before they get to market. Many that do survive will die a slow death due to a combination of stress, parasitism, and improper care by an unprepared buyer. Therefore, it is crucial to be well informed about the origins of an animal before purchasing it.
While many people look to imported or FB animals as a cheaper alternative, what advantage is truly gained? First, consider that most of these animals are illegally caught which jeopardizes species conservation efforts. Also, many imported /farm bred animals have visible injuries and/or scars from being caught, being kept at holding facilities, or from being shipped in bulk in poor conditions. While many injuries are cosmetic (cuts, kinked spines), some may require medical attention (broken ribs, abscesses). However, below the surface is where greater issues lie. The most common internal ailments are subdermal parasites, intestinal parasites, and bacterial respiratory infections. All of these conditions will require medical intervention by your veterinarian.
Another big concern with unreliably sourced FB chondros is mites. Mites can spread really quickly and be a pain to get rid of. And prolonged exposure to them can cause a lot of medical issues for your entire collection. But the most frustrating part about an imported/FB animal is that usually you get very little, if any, knowledgeable after sale support. So if an animal survives shipping, and responds well to medical treatment, there likely won’t be anyone to help out if it refuses to eat or has other issue. When starting out with chondros, unreliably sourced imports or farm bred chondros usually aren’t worth it.
Most US breeders and MVF members feel that there are only a few reasons for purchasing imported/farm bred animals. Two examples are if a locality-type animal is unavailable in the US captive market, or if a buyer is interested in adding “new,” unrelated blood to their breeding colony. In either case, there are two brokers of Bushmaster animals that are trusted in the chondro community (or three if you want to order from Bushmaster directly). Both Clockwork Reptiles and Wall to Wall Reptiles work directly with Bushmaster and are the only reliable sources that can be recommended for purchasing import/FB animals.
Remember how they get here!
All photos by D.Natusch /J.Lyons
Captive Bred (CB)
This term probably seems like the best choice after reading about farm bred chondros. But unfortunately it’s a label used very loosely in the pet trade. Usually a chondro that is labeled CB is really just farm bred or wild caught. Brokers and middlemen often use this term to misrepresent farm bred animals. But when pressed for more information they will give vague answers. “The breeder wants to remain anonymous,” or “They are USCB but I got them in a trade so I don’t have the information,” are answers that tell you the seller has no idea about an animal’s origin. These dealers are usually more interested in moving inventory than ensuring you’ll have success with the chondro. If the seller can’t, or refuses to provide basic information on an animal’s origin then you have to assume it is either a farmed or wild caught import.
Don’t fall victim to the elusive tactics of brokers. Ask questions like:
- Who was the breeder?
- What was the hatch date?
- Can I see pictures of the parents?
- How long has it been in your care?
- If these questions can’t be answered, the animal is likely farm bred or wild caught. Keep in mind this applies to both unchanged neonates, as well as adults. Chondros shouldn’t be represented as something they aren’t. Knowledge is power so learn as much as you can because if you aren’t prepared, there are plenty of people who might try taking advantage of that.
US Captive Born (USCB), or US Captive Born and Bred (USCBB)
This category is the best choice for new chondro owners. A true USCB chondro is produced by a breeder who spends countless hours establishing babies, cleaning cages, raising future breeders, and maintaining a breeding colony in optimum conditions. Chondro breeders are devoted to their animals, and want to ensure they are sold to capable buyers who understand husbandry requirements. If you buy a USCB neonate from a breeder, it will come to you virtually problem free. It will be healthy, eating regularly, and likely come with a pedigree or lineage chart. Most importantly, the breeder will provide after sale support to ensure your success.
If your first purchase is a sub-adult or adult chondro, the above still applies. While you may not be purchasing it from the original breeder, it is likely to have been kept in appropriate conditions. Regardless of whether you are purchasing an unchanged neonate or an older animal, a seller’s USCB claim should be supported with breeder information, hatch date, lineage charts and/or hatch certificates.
One of the goals of MVF breeders is to provide well-established USCB chondros so that buyers won’t have to purchase questionable animals that come from unreliable sources. Most of us firmly believe in “Conservation through Captive propagation!” Until un-sourced farm bred animals are no longer bought, thousand of these fascinating creatures will continue to die slow and painful deaths at the hands of brokers and un-informed keepers. Please do the research and make an informed choice!
Chondros are native to many regions of Papua New Guinea and its surrounding islands. A locale is simply a city/region name, such as Jayapura, Sorong, or Biak. Some locales have chondros with very unique phenotypes (visible traits), but some have chondros that look very similar. Without legitimate documentation or actually seeing a snake being caught, it is impossible to definitively know a chondro’s locale. Specific traits (such as blue vertebral striping) have historically been used to make a best estimate of locale. And recent field research has confirmed much of what is accepted about locale designations. Regardless, “locale type” should be used because of the inability to verify exact origins. Locale type indicates that a chondro resembles an animal from that locale, as opposed to being a claim of locality.
Locale designations are often just the name of the closest town, port, or mountain range were a chondro shipped from, and typically have no validity to its actual location of capture. At times these names are used as marketing tools by importers who want to compete with other brokers by offering the “latest and greatest” locales.
Some of the more common locale types include:
- Islands: Biak, Aru, Kofiau, Yapen, Misool, Numfor, Supiori, Padaido
- Mainland Types: Arfak, Wamena, Lereh, Cyclops, Bokondini, Karubaga, Merauke, Sorong, Nabire, Manokwari, Jayapura
Recent studies by Daniel Nutusch suggest there are in fact two species of Morelia viridis: the northern species Morelia azurea, and the southern species Morelia viridis. It is expected for the formal split to be published soon.
The term "designer" is sometimes used loosely and there can be confusion as to what it actually means. To some, designer is any chondro produced in captivity by deliberately pairing animals with specific traits. In other words, a breeder attempts to design animals with a specific “look.” By this definition almost all chondros produced in captivity are designers. However, the term "designer" is usually associated with color morphs (high blue, high yellow, etc.) as well as pedigrees/lineages. Designers are the result of years of selective breeding for specific heritable characteristics such as size, vigor and most often, color. The refinement process is slow and the pedigree or family tree allows you to track an animal's history, compare phenotypes to animals from the same line/lineage, and to track other similarities within that particular line. As a result of the time, effort, history, and rarity of some of these animals, designers can be quite expensive. Some of the more popular names associated with designers are Calico, Lemon Tree, High Blue/Blue Line, and Melanistic/High Black.
breeding is when blood relatives are bred to each other in order to reinforce
desirable traits. Outcrossing is
introducing unrelated genes into a breeding line. Since many designer lines
have been line bred, outcrossing can
restore vigor, size, and fertility to a breeding line. Outcrossing can also strengthen
certain colors or introduce traits that are missing from a line. In
the MVF community, outcrossing a locale type to a designer line is common. For
example, if a blue line animal was bred to a Biak type animal, the offspring
would typically be referred to as Biak OC’s, or Blue Line OC’s.
This term is not widely used with GTP’s. It is used in the Grey Band and a few other reptile communities to describe the offspring from two different locale adults. With GTP’s, the results from crossing different locales is usually desirable and the term mutt is used infrequently. When used, it typically describes any animal with an unknown background.