Many amateur herpetologists fear the Malaysian red blood python, named for the traditionally red color of its scales. This heavy-bodied snake is thick compared to other snakes of similar length. Native to eastern Sumatra, western Malaysia, southwestern Thailand and other islands in southeast Asia, the blood python poses challenges to beginners. However, carefully bred and handled blood pythons thrive in captivity.
Blood pythons have a reputation for being irritable, defensive and quick to strike. Baby blood pythons are more sensitive and insecure than other pet snakes. This sensitivity renders acclimation of these snakes to captivity a challenging endeavor, especially since these snakes are so easily stressed. For these reasons, coupled with the fact that many blood pythons were wild caught specimens, by the 1970s, the snakes had earned a reputation for being high-strung, aggressive and difficult to keep.
Throughout the 20th century, animal dealers captured wild blood pythons in Malaysia and Sumatra for sale to skinners and hide buyers. Live animal traders would purchase blood pythons for sale as pets; however, these animals were not treated as well as those destined for the live pet trade. These full-grown, wild-caught adults that were often ill-treated after capture are the source of the blood python’s reputation as aggressive and disagreeable.
While wild-caught adults are ill-adapted to captivity, captive-bred blood pythons can be quite timid and docile creatures. Blood pythons thrive when hatched and bred in captivity and make sweet-natured, friendly pets. Even-tempered red bloods come from responsible, reputable breeders who have already begun weekly feedings and acclimated the baby snake to its environment.
Keeping and Handling
Intermediate handlers who have several years experience keeping snakes are best able to meet the challenges presented by the Malaysian red blood python. The snake is more sensitive than other pythons to differences in temperature and humidity in its cage. Unlike the more docile Burmese python, which can still thrive under less than ideal conditions, there is no room for error when keeping a blood python. If the cage is not maintained at the proper temperature and humidity level, with adequate places for the shy snake to hide when it feels threatened, it may become irritable or defensive, and its temperament may suffer.
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Jennifer Mueller began writing and editing professionally in 1995, when she became sports editor of her university's newspaper while also writing a bi-monthly general interest column for an independent tourist publication. Mueller holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a Juris Doctor from Indiana University Maurer School of Law.