Saturday, June 26, 2010

Morelia spilota cheynei, the stunning Jungle Carpet Python at Ella Bay

There is no doubt that one of the most beautiful snakes you will find in the rainforests of North Queensland is the Jungle Carpet Python Morelia spilota cheynei.

My friend James Epong (a local Ma:mu aboriginal belonging to the Mandubarra clan group) took this photo and got a few good laughs as it bit me once or twice to thank me for moving it off the road.
James and I had been watching over marine turtle nests near the Ella Bay Road on 12 February 2010 and were returning via the same road when I jammed the brakes on and moved this little beauty off the road.

Generally I’m not big on snake wrangling but there was no way I was leaving this amazing animal on the road where it could get run over as it basked in the moonlight.
We quickly took some photos of this beautiful animal
and then I released the python in an area a few metres away from the road.
Jungle carpet pythons are semi arboreal non venomous snakes that kill their prey by constricting and suffocating it with their strong bodies. You will note in the first photo this little snake has firmly wrapped itself around my fingers and was squeezing the daylights out of them (better than being bitten though)!

Jungle carpet pythons usually grow to about 6 feet in this region so you can see this one was just a pup.

Here is a photo of an adult my partner photographed at our home sunning itself in the long grass.
I could rattle on about these beautiful pythons for ages but there is a concise description of this snake and its habits on Wikipedia which you can find here.

Let’s get back to the Ella Bay Road that property developer Ella Bay Pty Ltd wish to make larger so it will service approximately 5000 people instead of the handful who use it now (an exponential increase).

It wont just be the endangered southern cassowaries that will be impacted by such environmentally irresponsible development as I have discussed in stories like Cassowary Fruits Along the Ella Bay Road and A Road to Cassowary Extinction and Mangoes and Cassowaries on the Ella Bay road - Food for Thought Part 1 and Part 2.

Even with the low volume of traffic that uses the Ella Bay Road at present, I still see many harmless snakes crushed on this road.

This Slaty-grey snake Stegonotus cucullatus is a harmless species that grows to about 1.3 metres and mainly eats frogs.

Unfortunately it timed its crossing of the Ella Bay Road rather poorly.

The same thing happened to this beautiful (and harmless) Green tree snake Dendrelaphis punctulata, just metres from the Ella Bay carpark.

There's a great photograph of this species on Australian Natural History Safari. Thank you David and Diane Ambrust.

Returning to the road, more traffic will equal more deaths and as a major chunk of this proposed new “improved” Ella Bay Road will run through World Heritage Ella Bay National Park … obviously I am highly concerned.

World Heritage National Parks should be about providing protection for animal and plant ecosystems not roads to extinction.

I don’t feel too good about leaving you with images of dead animals at the end of a story so here are some photos of the largest snake you will find at Ella Bay, the Amethystine python Morelia amethistina.

This snake will grow to over 8 metres and we photographed this specimen in front of my home where it has a bad habit of lying on the road to warm itself on the bitumen during cool nights.

I have had to remove this snake from the road a few times and no it has not bitten me ...yet!

Cheers Russ


  1. Candice ValenzuelaJune 27, 2010 at 2:32 PM

    What stunning photographs of Morelia spilota cheynei! As a central Queensland volunteer wildlife carer, I read your blog with great interest. Thank you for all the wonderful information and photographs.

  2. Thank you for your kind comments Candice. I must say we got great photos that night mainly because we had such a stunning subject(nothing to do with our camera skills).
    Respect to you for being a wildlife carer and I hope to do a story soon about a dying Rufous pademelon I found that someone left for dead on the Ella Bay Road. She had a joey which I handed over to an Innisfail wildlife carer. Wildlife carers have my profound respect for the personal sacrifices they make to look after orphaned and injured animals...more power to you Candice and I'm glad you enjoy the blog
    cheers Russ

  3. Interesting encounter and Bravo! This is a delightful and heartwarming read indeed. Keep it up, Russell :)

  4. They're ungrateful little beggars, aren't they?

    That's a nice amethystine python. It's good to know that there are still bigguns around.

  5. Thank you for your encouragement Chun.
    I thoroughly enjoyed your latest nocturnal field trip on "Encounters With Nature" at
    I really must do a few more nocturnal field trips myself!

  6. Hi Snail.
    Your right they are ungrateful little critters at times and now that we are entering the cooler dry season I expect to be shifting a few more snakes off the warm bitumen during my nocturnal travels.
    The big amethystine has been chased off the road in front of my home on a few occasions and I usually see it when I have no camera apart from my very average mobile phone!
    Thank you for your comments snail
    Cheers Russ

  7. eeeek! I prefer wallabies ;) Granted, it is beautiful in it's own special way lol.

  8. Thanks for your comments Amanda and there's no denying marsupials take all the prizes when it comes to cuteness! Snakes are handsome in their own way but unfortunately don't have a great public image. The fact that Australia has some of the deadliest snakes in the world doesn't help either!

  9. Thank you Luuuuuua. You take a pretty wicked photo yourself and Romania is very different to my little part of the world indeed though it has a rugged beauty all of its own. Bravo to you too!


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