NOTE FROM KALIA: While we focus on cetaceans, and specifically orcas, here at Orca Action Network, we love all animals and will feature other species from time to time. Today we celebrate Herp Day with Akula’s favorite species, and we hope you enjoy learning about the woma python!

Happy Earth Day!  Today is a day to celebrate conservation and environmental awareness.  It’s a wonderful day to spread awareness, educate, and help make a positive impact on wild species and their habitats.  In 2015, the Orianne Society decided to use Earth Day as a way to accomplish these goals for their conservation targets – reptiles, amphibians, and the ecosystems they depend on.  They dubbed Earth Day “Herp Day.”  The term “herp” refers to the family of reptiles and amphibians.  They’re continuing the tradition this year, and Orca Action Network is celebrating Herp Day as well by raising awareness for a little-known species of Endangered python.  Today, we’ll be highlighting Woma Pythons!

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This is Oz, a Woma Python that I help take care of at my zoo! (Photo is mine)

Woma Pythons (Aspidites ramsayi) are native to Australia.  They’re pretty interesting snakes, since they spend a lot of time underground!  They like to hang out in the burrows dug by their prey items, and they also do a lot of hunting underground.  As pythons, they are constrictors, but there isn’t as much room underground as there is in the “over world.”  Meaning that they don’t coil up around their prey like most constrictor snakes.  They actually push them against the side of the burrow, and constrict them that way.  Besides eating small mammals, Womas are also known to eat their fellow reptiles, including venomous snakes.  They have actually developed an immunity to snake venom, so they can chow down on Australia’s deadly serpents without fear!

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See this?  See the coiling?  Totally not a Woma!  It’s a Rainbow Boa, an above-ground constrictor.  (Photo from Wikipedia)

Womas have interesting (and adorable) faces as well.  Their heads are bright yellow.  I’m not sure of the purpose this serves…maybe they’re trying to one-up their cousin, the Black-Headed Python.

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Both Aspidites snakes have fancy heads, and Womas are the more colorful of the two.  There’s definitely some cousin rivalry going on here.  (Pic from Wikipedia)

Regardless of the function, their yellow head looks amazing!  Their face does have a more useful trait, which is their little black eye spots.  These can trick predators into thinking that the snake’s head is bigger than it actually is.  And bigger head means bigger mouth, which means a bigger fight put up by the snake!  This makes the snake seem a lot less appetizing.

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Don’t Oz’s eyepatches look terrifying? Also notice that she lacks the heat-sensing pits exhibited by most pythons.  This is a family trait of Aspidites, shared by both Womas and Black-Headed Pythons, likely due to their underground lifestyle! (Photo is mine)

Unfortunately, those eye spots aren’t enough to scare away all of the Woma’s problems. These beautiful snakes are listed as Endangered by the IUCN.  The problems they face are mostly human-caused, as are the plights of so many animals.  Womas face habitat loss and degradation, as well as invasive species such as foxes, feral cats, and feral hogs.

The good news is that there are conservation efforts centered around Womas in Australia! Zoological facilities, including the Australia and Adelaide zoos,  are breeding them and even helping to preserve habitat.  Conservation organizations are researching them and helping to eliminate invasive species from their ecosystem.  Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be many ways for people to donate to their conservation.  But don’t worry, there are certainly things that you can do to help!

Make sure to spread the word about Womas!  Very few people even know that these guys exist, much less that they’re Endangered and need help.  Share this article, tell your friends and family about them, raise as much awareness as you can.  And don’t restrict yourself to just this one species.  Increasing general appreciation of snakes and other herps is a huge step in conserving them all over the world.  Womas and other threatened snakes will have a much better chance of getting the attention they deserve if someone’s first response to them isn’t “I would love to introduce that evil serpent to my shovel.” Educate, educate, and educate some more on the ecological importance of herps and why they deserve respect, appreciation, and conservation.

Use the tragedy of Woma Endangerment to inspire you to adopt more sustainable habits! Keep your cats indoors, never release pets you don’t want, and don’t support invasive species in any way (such as feeding feral cats).  Respect your native wildlife – don’t kill herps, and discourage friends and family from doing so.  Keep your recreational vehicles on approved roads and courses, do NOT go off-road.  Off-road ATVs in Australia are one reason why the Woma Python’s habitat is degrading.  It disturbs habitat, which we don’t want. Pick up your trash, never litter, and recycle what you can.  Let’s do our best to keep our native herps from facing extinction the way Womas are.

And while we can’t donate to Woma conservation, we certainly CAN donate to other herp conservation groups!  Why not give some money to the Orianne Society’s Herp Day 2016 fundraiser?

Thanks for reading this, I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about this under-appreciated species!

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