Four wildlife centres in south India will, for the first time, attempt captive breeding of the protected reticulate python.
The reticulate python is generally found in the jungles of the northeast, unlike its cousin, the rock python, which is found all over India, especially in the forests of the Western Ghats bordering Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
So far, the Chennai Snake Park has tried to breed the rock python in captivity but without success. The reptiles either refused to mate or laid eggs that were infertile due to "inbreeding depression", officials here said.
The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has identified zoos at Chennai and Mysore and Chennai's Crocodile Bank and Snake Park as the breeding centres.
A CZA task force has been set up to begin the breeding project. Once the project is notified, strategies will be chalked out and breeding profiles identified in the participating zoos, zoo officials said.
"There is very little technical knowledge about captive breeding of pythons and a lot of research is required," said Chennai Snake Park chairperson B. Vijayaraghavan.
The park is home to seven rock pythons and 19 reticulate pythons.
The python being a protected species, there is not much wild stock available to refresh the genetic profile of the zoo-bred python.
"We have to think of enhancing the genetic profile of the breeding stock through exchange programmes (with other countries)," Vijayaraghavan maintained.
It is also not known how many pythons survive in India's jungles since its meat is considered a delicacy in many parts of the country, he added.