Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Green Tree Python

(Morelia viridis)

Habitat and Distribution: Found in tropical rainforests and secondary forests of New Guinea, parts of Indonesia, and the Cape York Peninsula of Australia.

Size: 4-7 feet long

Wild Diet: Mostly mammals; occasionally small birds and reptiles

Predators: Primarily birds of prey, like hawks, eagles, buzzards, and rufous owls; also dingoes, quolls, and monitor lizards

Lifespan: 12-19 years in the wild; up to 30 years in zoos

Reproduction: Like all pythons, green tree pythons are oviparous, meaning that they lay eggs. Females protect and incubate their eggs, which are laid in the hollowed portions of tree limbs. Hatchlings are usually yellow, but are sometimes orange, red, blue or gold. They gradually turn green over 6-8 months.

Behavior: Green tree pythons are mostly arboreal, remaining in trees during the day and venturing down to the ground at night. When resting, they loop coils of their body over a branch and place their head in the center. They capture prey by holding onto a branch with their prehensile tail and striking out from an S-shaped position.

Conservation

IUCN Status:  Least Concern

The conservation status of green tree pythons is difficult to determine because they are hard to count in the wild. They are assessed as "endangered" by some classification systems. Some populations may be vulnerable to logging and habitat destruction, and in some areas they are hunted for their skin and meat.

Did you know?

  • A green tree python's tail is prehensile, meaning it can be used to grasp or hold objects. They also dangle their tails to entice potential prey animals to come closer.
  • Green tree pythons bear a striking resemblance to the emerald tree boas (Corallus caninus) of South America, but there are a few ways to tell them apart. Emerald tree boas have small pits on their upper and lower lips, while green tree pythons only have these pits on the upper lip. Also, emerald tree boas are viviparous (giving birth to live young) while green tree pythons are oviparous (laying eggs).
  • The similarities between these two species are an example of "convergent evolution" or "parallel evolution."