Sunday, May 22, 2011

Snake Weight, Don’t Tell Me!

In anticipation of the recent vet visit from Dr. Maas of The Center for Bird and Exotic Animal Medicine, Animal Care staff performed the quarterly weigh-in of our reptiles.

We weigh the boa constrictors by weighing staff members with and without snakes, and subtracting the difference. This is simple arithmetic, which we sometimes ask younger guests to help with. Any chance to sneak math into the day is worth it.

Here are the results:

Estrella – (21.6 lbs.) 9.8 kg, (7ft 10in) 2.4 meters
Esteban – (19.4 lbs.) 8.7 kg, (8ft) 2.4 meters
Estella – (24.8 lbs.) 11.2 kg, (7ft 11in) 2.4 meters

Why do we convert pounds and feet to metric readings? Partially, we do this because metric measurements are accepted universally. Even more importantly, we like to know the animals’ weights in kilograms because nearly all medication is dispensed in units per gram or kilogram, and the math is much simpler if we already have the weights in those increments.

Measuring a snake’s length is tricky. Snakes rarely stretch out to their full length, and they resist our efforts to make them do so. Instead, we lay string along their spine from head to tail and measure the string. Because the snakes are moving, these measurements are not accurate. However, as we take multiple measurements over time, their averages will come closer to a real reading.

Zea – 460 grams, (45 in) 1.14 meters
Tillamook – 480 grams, (45.5in) 1.15 meters
Nacho – 80 grams, (26.5in) 0.67 meters

Lydia – 100 grams

The corn snakes and the leopard gecko were weighed on a smaller and more precise scale, since a few grams means a lot for an animal of their size. If Estella gained or lost 100 grams (Lydia’s entire weight) it would account for less than 1% of her body weight, so we do not need to weigh her to the same degree of precision.

As we track our animals over time, we hope to see signs of growth in the younger ones, stability in the adults, and help bring Estella, who is a tad heavy and Zea and Tillamook, who are a trifle thin, back to their ideal weights.

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