My smoking-hot wife and I enjoyed a lovely Saturday this weekend which included a trip to the library where I found a book I really enjoyed: BOAS AND PYTHONS OF THE WORLD by Mark O’Shea.
My favorite chapters of the introduction were on snake anatomy, historical accounts of giant snakes and species conservation. After asking the question of what can be done to conserve snakes, O’Shea answers with; Education. Teaching people most snakes are completely harmless and do much good by removing pests. That there are no “evil” animals, no matter what legends, traditions or media may lead you to believe. Snakes are part of the ecosystem, just as much as a giant panda or tiger. They deserve to be conserved just as much.
“Snakes are simply part of the ecological jigsaw. And what use is a jigsaw with pieces missing?”
The rest of the book is broken down into geographical areas and includes the species found in those areas. I prefer this method opposed to listing all the pythons in one section where you may be jumping from Loxemus bicolor in the Americas right next to Liasis olivaceus in Australia. So it’s well laid out and easy to read. O’Shea writes in the first person, sprinkling personal accounts of his experiences in the field. It were these anecdotes I enjoyed the most while reading this book, which makes me wish there was a memoir of his expeditions I could read next.
In addition to boas and pythons, the basal snakes (blindsnakes, pipesnakes, wormsnakes, etc.) are also included. In the end, I am glad they were. Like mixing vegetables in a young child’s mashed potatoes, I got what I wanted (information on boas and pythons) while benefiting from learning about something extra (basal snakes.) Now that I’ve had my “vegetables,” so to speak, I feel better for it. These snakes are so unique, so out-of-this-world and so adapted to their environment its mind-blowing. O’Shea frequently mentions how little is known about these snakes and encourages the outgoing herpetologist to study them. I didn’t know-or may have forgotten-the Braminy Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus) was a parthenogenetic species, but it certainly explains why they have the largest geographical range of any snake on the planet.
“Boas are found in every mainland American country except Chile, which is two countries more than the rattlesnakes.”
The pages are oversized which makes space for huge color photographs. The photographs are good, although not comprehensive. There isn’t a photo of every individual species, and there are some species which earned multiple photos. However, the photos are great and I especially enjoyed seeing certain animals in print that are exceptionally rare such as the Oenpelli Python and the Eyelash boas of the genus Trachyboa.
O’Shea recognizes the contribution and value of herpetoculture. This is by no means a book on captive husbandry, but neither is it strictly a volume of natural history. Where applicable, notes of lessons learned from captive animals is given. The overlapping of those two, natural history and herpetoculture, made the reading all the more interesting. I definitely recommend giving this a read. With the steadfast interest and growing popularity of boas and pythons this book will remain a relevant addition to any herp library.