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Twig Mimic Snake, Langaha nasuta

Introduction The Twig Mimic snake is an arboreal species of snake, native to Madagascar and are found among dense foliage. They are primarily crepuscular... being mostly active at dusk and dawn. They are one of the most bizarre and unique looking snakes known. They are also one of the only species boasting sexual dimorphism in their facial features. Twig Mimic snakes grow to about 3 ft in length. Most maintain a slender, arboreal, body style throughout life. They are stealthy predators of lizards, frogs and perhaps small mammals and birds. Being a rear fanged snake, they immobilize their prey with a powerful venom, which flows from fangs located in the back of the mouth. .

Acclimation and Quarantine Twig mimics are normally not difficult to acclimate. The vast majority of Twig Mimics are still wild caught, and because of their lizard and frog diet, they are likely to have a heavy parasite load. Wild caught snakes should therefore be treated for parasites as soon as possible after purchase.

Fresh imports may be dehydrated. Allow the snake to lie on a branch in the shower with lukewarm water. This should be done as soon as the snake is home, and supervision is a must during these times. Another way is to place the snake in a deli cup or other enclosed space filled to about one inch with lukewarm water. This method is very effective as the snakes will often drink during these sessions. A large water dish should be present in the cage at all times.

Quarantine or acclimation enclosures need not be elaborate, but rather sterile and easy to clean. Plastic storage bins are often used for such enclosures as they are easy to clean, come in a variety of sizes, and most provide the security needed for a freshly imported snake. Paper towels, newspapers, or other easily cleaned materials may be used as the substrate. A few simple branches or pieces of doweling can provide climbing opportunities, and a small plastic container could be used as the water bowl. A hide of some sort, and foliage should also be incorporated into the quarantine enclosure. This setup should be used until the snake is feeding regularly and appears to be in good health.

Housing Once the snake is acclimated and feeding well it may be put into a permanent cage. Twig Mimic Snakes don’t require very large enclosures. However, ample vertical space is a necessity as these snakes are mostly arboreal in their habits and will require such room to climb. A cage that is about 24” x 24” x 24” (L x W x H) is a minimum size for an individual or pair, but larger enclosures are usually better. Glass enclosures can be used, but are not the best choice for this species. To ensure that the snake is secure, a cage with at least five opaque sides is recommended. Wooden cages are a better alternative than glass cages because of the heightened security, but the high humidity needed for these snakes can wear on wooden cages after a while. By far, the best cages for this species are those made of polyethylene or controlled density PVC. These cages usually have only one transparent side and can also withstand the high humidity needed within the habitat. Such cages are also usually inexpensive and attractive.

Furnishing the enclosure is of personal preference. Branches are very important in furnishing the enclosure as this snake almost never descends to the bottom of the cage. There should numerous branches located through out the enclosure. The snake should be able to access any point in the cage by way of branches. Arboreal hides should also be placed in the branches to provide the snakes with a sense of security in their arboreal habits. They should be placed at multiple levels to provide the snake with a thermal gradient. Twig Mimic snakes greatly prefer arboreal hides to those on the ground, so I highly recommend arboreal hides. Large amounts of foliage should be added to the cage to provide the snake with more places to hide. For substrate, soil, mulch, ground coconut, and sphagnum moss are all acceptable.

Lighting and Heating Your Twig Mimic should have a thermal gradient that reflects their natural climate of Madagascar so that the snake may choose the area of the cage where it is most comfortable. The warmest extreme of the cage should be between 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit, while the cooler side of the cage should be between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. It is extremely important that the snake is provided with this thermal gradient so they can escape the heat, if it is not provided, your pet may suffer from heat exhaustion and possibly die!

At night there should be a slight drop in temperature, preferably of about ten degrees. This will help promote certain natural behaviors for the snake, and will also help to recreate the natural drop in temperature that the snake would experience in the wild. A ceramic heat emitter is the perfect way to provide heat at night and during the day because it does not produce light but rather emits a radiant heat. Still, I prefer to use a fluorescent or incandescent bulb during the day to provide light.

Feeding Most Twig Mimics will adapt to their captive life quickly and start excepting food in short order. I have had most success getting these snake to eat by offering them green anoles and house geckos. Upon the introduction of food to the enclosure, the snake will almost immediately make a series of short, deliberate, darty movements toward the feeder lizard and stop short about 2-3 inches from its target. At this point the snake will flatten it's hood and slowly move into a position directly above the lizard so the prey can be seized by the top of the neck. Occasionally this species will even employ some constriction to help restrain the prey, despite it's potent lizard killing venom.

Twig Mimics have a moderately fast metabolism and should be fed twice or even three times a week to ensure good body weight.

Water A dish of fresh water should always be available. Most Twigs will not drink from a dish, however the water bowl will help to raise the humidity in the cage. After several months in captivity, mine did eventually learn to drink from a water dish... however, the dish is placed off the base of the tank and is mounted to some of the branches. The most reliable way to get your snake to drink is to mist/spray the cage once or twice a day. This serves two purposes. The first is humidity and the second is drinkable water for your pet. Most arboreal snakes will readily drink the droplets that accumulate on it's body and surroundings before they will drink from a bowl of standing water.

A Note on Venom Although very little is known about the venom’s affect on humans, it is possible to receive a hot bite. There are no known fatalities from a Twig Mimic snake. Since they have a primitive means of venom delivery; they are not likely to pose a threat to a healthy adult. Always be aware of the possibility of an allergic reaction or anaphylactic shock.

Regardless they must be handled with respect and caution; proper handling tools (snake hooks/tongs etc.) should be used while working with this species.