GAMMON RANGES CARPET PYTHONS
(Morelia spilota ???)

 
The Flinders & Gammon Ranges
 
 

The Flinders Ranges is South Australia's largest mountain range and a national park, 384 km north of Adelaide. It stretches over 430 km from Port Pirie to Lake Callabonna. Formation of the Flinders Ranges began 800 million years ago with development of the Adelaide Geosyncline due to stretching of the earth’s crust. The sea covered the land for the next 300 million years, depositing rock debris in the depression formed. These rocks were compressed and uplifted to form a mountain chain much higher than the present formations. The softer slates and shales were gradually eroded leaving quartzite and hard sandstone peaks. Ediacara Hills in the northern Flinders Ranges was the site of discovery in 1946 of some of the oldest fossil evidence of animal life.

The Gammon Ranges are part of the northern Flinders Ranges, immediately southwest of and adjacent to Arkaroola Sanctuary. They encompass some of the most rugged and spectacular country in South Australia. The central ranges are of a different topographical nature to the rest of the Flinders, being composed of roughly flat-lying strata, creating a high plateau into which spectacular gorges have been cut, instead of the buckled and folded strata further south. The high central range and plateau is surrounded by a number of smaller outlying ranges, creating the encircling "pounds" of low hills.

   
 
 

 Click here to see more images of
the Flinders and Gammon Ranges

     
 
Gammon Ranges Carpet Pythons
 
 

Over the last couple of decades, I have spent many a long hour searching for South Australian Carpet pythons and managed to find all four of the different forms that inhabit our state. The most widely known is the Murray-Darling carpet python (Morelia spilota metcalfei). By far the most difficult to find of the SA Carpet forms has proven to be the Flinders Ranges Carpet and in particular animals from the Gammon Ranges. I have spoken to many people that have lived in the area for a long time and evidently they were quite commonly encountered 30 to 40 years ago. However, over the last 20 years they have become harder and harder to find.

Recent studies by the SA Museum have indicated that these carpets are more closely related to the western carpet form M. s. imbicata. This is surprising as the Murray-Darling form can still be found within 100 kilometres of the Flinders Ranges. However, scattered and remnant populations of carpet pythons can be found heading south west from the Flinders and my personal experience is that they look more and more like M. s. imbricata as you travel west.

As described above, the Gammons are a very rugged range with deep gorges. These gorges are typically populated with red river gums. In a good season, thousands of corellas will nest in the tree hollows of these gums and it is here, if you have no fear of heights, on occasion the elusive Gammon Ranges carpet can be found with a fat belly full of chicks.

 
 
 
   
 
Breeding the Gammon Carpets
 
 

For the last 7 years, I have had in my possession a male Gammon Ranges Carpet but have been unable to secure a mate for him. However, a friend called Julia did manage to secure a pair after many years. To the best of my knowledge (and everyone else I know) this is the first clutch of Gammon Ranges Carpets (or Flinders Ranges Carpets) ever bred in captivity, and the first hatchlings ever offered for sale. So congratulations to Julia on an outstanding first.

Julia's children named the father of these neonates “Loopy” when she first got him. Currently he is 1.6 m long and weighs 2.4 kilos. The mother is called “Snap Dragon” and she was in extremely poor health when Julia first got her. According to Julia, when feeding "she snapped at the first rat and then did the same again for the next rat, but I was a bit slow and she attempted to eat my hand, so the kids called her “Snap Dragon” and that name also stuck. She is now a big softy - funny how regular feeding has changed her." She is now 1.65 m long and weighs 2.8 kilos.

Loopy was introduced on and off to Snap Dragon from the 1st September, 2005 until Snappy appeared gravid around 7th November, 2005. By the 7th December, 2005 she was lying belly up and 14 days after that on the 21st December, 2005 she laid her eggs. The first neonate hatched on the 8th. February, 2006. Their average weight was 23.5 grams and their average length was 42.7 cms.

A total of 17 hatchlings were produced, and of these Julia kept one pair and I eagerly snapped up two pair .... surprise, surprise. This left 5 pair and 1 male available to be sold to folk that appreciate rare provenance animals like these and wanted to breed them and keep the line true. Within a week of advertising them, all of the hatchlings were committed to breeders in SA, Queensland, NSW and Victoria, so there will be no more available now until around April/May 2007.

During this coming season, I am lending my single male to Julia to put with Snap Dragon with the aim of adding a bit more genetic diversity to the line if she breeds again. Hopefully, given time we will be able to secure this lovely form of carpet for herps all over Australia to enjoy.

 
 
 
 
 Hatchlings
 

Click here to see enlarged pics
of the adults and hatchlings.

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