Hollandt, T., Baur, M., Wöhr, A.-C. 2021. Animal-appropriate housing of ball pythons (Python regius)—Behavior-based evaluation of two types of housing systems. PLOS ONE 16(5), e0247082.

Considering animal welfare, animals should be kept in animal-appropriate and stress-free housing conditions in all circumstances. To assure such conditions, not only basic needs must be met, but also possibilities must be provided that allow animals in captive care to express all species-typical behaviors. Rack housing systems for snakes have become increasingly popular and are widely used; however, from an animal welfare perspective, they are no alternative to furnished terrariums. In this study, we therefore evaluated two types of housing systems for ball pythons (Python regius) by considering the welfare aspect animal behavior. In Part 1 of the study, ball pythons (n = 35) were housed individually in a conventional rack system. The pythons were provided with a hiding place and a water bowl, temperature control was automatic, and the lighting in the room served as indirect illumination. In Part 2 of the study, the same ball pythons, after at least 8 weeks, were housed individually in furnished terrariums. The size of each terrarium was correlated with the body length of each python. The terrariums contained substrate, a hiding place, possibilities for climbing, a water basin for bathing, an elevated basking spot, and living plants. The temperature was controlled automatically, and illumination was provided by a fluorescent tube and a UV lamp. The shown behavior spectrum differed significantly between the two housing systems (p < 0.05). The four behaviors basking, climbing, burrowing, and bathing could only be expressed in the terrarium. Abnormal behaviors that could indicate stereotypies were almost exclusively seen in the rack system. The results show that the housing of ball pythons in a rack system leads to a considerable restriction in species-typical behaviors; thus, the rack system does not meet the requirements for animal-appropriate housing.

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