Researchers at Charles University in the Czech Republic looked at the factors determining which species of pythons and boas are kept in zoos and found that beauty is the most important. Shorter article: If it's pretty, it's in.
Size is also significant. Punters love monster snakes. And if they're big and pretty … bingo!
Neither conservation status nor commercial value appears to be significant. Rare species are not over-represented in collections, although that might be expected if conservation were an issue. And the price of boas and pythons is such that the even the less common species are affordable — should a zoo buy specimens rather than trade them with other institutions.
The authors note that the importance of attractiveness to humans 'may lead to the conclusion that Noah's Ark is full of numerous repeats of a few attractive species … The pressure of public attendance hereby often outweighs conservation concerns.'
They recommend that 'studies of species attractiveness should be incorporated into conservation reasoning.' Easy to do for the cuddly furries and glamorous featheries, but I'd love to see the results for earthworms …
The top ten
- Brazilian rainbow boa (Epicrates c. cenchria)
- Royal python (Python regius)
- Indian python (Python molurus bivittatus)
- Red blood python (Python brongersmai)
- Emerald tree boa (Corallus caninus)
- Green anaconda (Eunectes murinus)
- Boa (Boa c. constrictor)
- African rock python (Python sebae & P. natalensis)
- Rough-scaled sand boa (Eryx conicus)
- Amazon tree boa (Corallus hortulanus)
The bottom ten
- African burrowing python (Calabaria reinhardti)
- Bibron's keel-scaled boa (Candoia bibroni)
- Savu python (Liasis savuensis)
- Pacific ground boa (Candoia carinata)
- Macklot's python (Liasis mackloti)
- Annulated tree boa (Corallus annulatus)
- Indian sand boa (Eryx johnii)
- Olive python (Liasis olivaceus)
- Puerto Rican boa (Epicrates inornatus)
- Haitian tree boa (Epicrates gracilis)
Marešová, J & Frynta, D. (2008). Noah's Ark is full of common species attractive to humans: The case of boid snakes in zoos. Ecological Economics 64: 554 – 558. Doi: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2007.03.012.