We constantly hear people talk about enrichment for reptiles.
- Not all reptiles are the same species. We know this sounds like a duh but we constantly hear people try to argue “reptiles” and even “snakes” and create this one size fits all model.
- If you notice the study here references the need to understand SPECIES SPECIFIC NATURAL HISTORIES. That means that we actually have to understand the natural behaviors of the animals in order to determine what would qualify as NATURAL enrichment.
- You MUST have a strong understanding of the natural behaviors and the WHY before you start making decisions on “enrichment” for your reptiles.
There are always posts where people talk about the fact that a BP will travel to a new burrow in the wild when the food supply dries up or they shed/crap in the current one. They use this to argue that we should be periodically changing out the hides and providing the BP with new ones. We’ve seen this argument also done where people want to claim that we should be rearranging the enclosures periodically to simulate this movement in the wild.
Now let’s stop and think about this…
When a BP has to change burrows, that opens them up to predators as they move. Do you think that isn’t stressful? Do you think they really “enjoy” the process of moving from one place to another?
Then we get the argument about the need for climbing branches based on the study about male BPs being found in low lying branches and eating birds. That study even states that bird eating does not automatically correlate to arborealism. Yet people now want to provide the balls with “climbing enrichment”. Do they climb in the wild? Sure… when they need food above ground and it’s sparse. Do they come above ground? Sure, for breeding. However, imagine if they didn’t have to climb for some food or crawl around above ground exposed to predators and the elements. Would that lengthen their lifespan?
Another favorite is the “they bask” argument. Well… when they leave the insulated mound for one of the above reasons, they kinda still need heat. They didn’t suddenly become endothermic.
“Space to Stretch Out”
And of course don’t forget the “they need space to stretch out” argument. Honestly, this one is more based on the anthropomorphism of humans thinking about the HUMAN need to stretch out. It truly has no basis in natural behavior.
So yes, if you “mix things up”, they will explore. If you toss in some branches they will climb. If you have the heat somewhere besides the hide, they will bask. If you prove a large enclosure, they will crawl around.
However also stop to realize that these behaviors are all stressors in the wild and the goal is captive keeping isn’t typically to see how much we can stress them out.
Now transfer this to captivity. How many BPs do we see refuse food because of too many changes in the environment? Call me crazy but that doesn’t seem to be their way of begging us to “mix things up”.
Fact is, balls hate change. Get the environment setup properly, offer them food and water, and THAT is how you end up with healthy snakes.