Although I don’t have any Keelbacks myself, I thought I’d share with you the information I do have about them. They are the next snake I will acquire if and when circumstances permit – they are fascinating little creatures.
Keelback Snakes (Tropidonophis mairii)
These fascinating little snakes are found on the Northern coastal areas of Australia, from the Kimberleys in the West, to Northern New South Wales in the East. They’re always near permanent water, and have the ability to stay submerged for over twenty minutes.
In colour, they can be gray, black, olive, or yellow to brown. They have a pattern of dots or bands, and sometimes look almost checkered.
Keelbacks are a small snake, growing to just under a metre in total length. They are oviparous, laying up to 17 or 18 eggs. Most breeding is done in the wet season, although they can breed year round.
Females are sometimes found with eggs, so there is a possibility of maternal care. It is also thought that they are one of the few snakes which nest communally. The eggs hatch at approximately 70 days, the hatchlings measuring 12 – 15 cm.
An unusual feature of the keelback is its ability to drop its tail when
threatened, although unlike lizards, the snake doesn’t grow the tail back. It can also emit a very bad odour from its anal glands.
If you’re going to keep a keelback, you will need to replicate its natural habitat. To do this, you’ll need a large aquarium or a cage in which you can put a water container sufficiently large to allow the snake to swim.
Keelbacks are only semi-aquatic, so they’ll spend some of their time on dry land, and this is also where they will lay their eggs. They will need something to hide under, a way of getting easily into and out of the water, and a log to climb and bask on. The snake will also need heating, as it is from tropical and sub-tropical Northern Australia.
Keelbacks feed mostly on frogs and tadpoles, although fish and lizards are taken. In captivity, they are often fed small carp, but this should be varied if possible. It may be possible to train them to take rats or mice.
In the wild, this snake is one of the few predators able to eat cane toads and survive.
Unfortunately, the keelback is not very tolerant of being handled, so it is more a display snake than is a python, for example. They are, however, a very active and inquisitive snake, so can give you many hours of enjoyment watching them. They may even watch you!