It’s not all soft and fluffy here at the San Diego Zoo, especially in the Education Department. Those in the know KNOW that sometimes sleek and scaley can be beautiful and fascinating, too. Reptiles are important partners as we pursue our mission of connecting people to wildlife. The Education Department houses some of the Zoo’s reptile collection for daily use in our camps and programs, and others are borrowed as needed. The newest members of our in-house team are Noo Roo and Mickie, our womas. Womas are Australian pythons, native to central and western Austraila and southwestern Queensland. They have orange heads and light and darker brown irregularly striped bodies.
Mickie was hatched at the Reptile House on June 6, 2007, and brother Noo Roo hatched a week later. They lived the early part of their lives there, behind the scenes, but came to join us in the fall of ’08 (we had to wait for them to grow large enough to handle). Right now, they’re about 3 feet (1 meter) long and about 18 ounces (500 grams). Mickie is a little bigger than his younger brother, which makes sense since he is the older brother. Their particular subspecies is also known as the sand python or Ramsay’s python, and we expect them to grow to be about 4 feet (1.2 meters) long, although other types of womas can be darker and larger.
As young guys, their heads are a beautiful yellow-gold color with bright, dark eyes and are really lovely to behold. The color of their heads will darken as they mature. They live in one of our education classrooms, side by side in their own enclosures, and are separate to allow them to be fed on different days (so there’s a woma always available to educate and enlighten while the other is digesting his food). They each get a large mouse weekly, but in addition to rodents, their diet in the wild would include other reptiles, including snakes. It’s unlikely that they would hurt each other, but as long as they’re going to get, they’ll need their own, larger space as they grow.
Mickie and Noo Roo, whose names are aboriginal words for “quick,” are now seasoned veterans at second-grade programs, EnviroSchools, and Critter Coverings, but you can view other womas daily at the Reptile House here at the Zoo.
Ellie Rosenbaum is an educator at the San Diego Zoo.