Some snakey DNA detective work is happening at Perth Zoo to solve the mysteries of the cryptic Pilbara Olive Python. 

The Pilbara Olive Python is only found in the Pilbara region of Western Australia and are so secretive they’re rarely seen slithering around the rocky landscape of the Chichester Range – preferring to spend most of their time in caves and crevices. These homebodies have made it difficult for conservationists to gather detailed information about their population levels and overall health of their species – until now.

Perth Zoo’s three Olive Pythons are helping researchers at the Trace and Environmental DNA Lab at Curtin University learn more about their wild cousins. By collecting their DNA through blood samples, the researchers will be able to get a complete picture of the genetic makeup of the Pilbara Olive Python – a scientific first! 

Armed with this important DNA, researchers will no longer have to launch an expensive expedition to the Pilbara in the hopes of seeing these snakes in real life. Instead, they can examine water and soil samples retrieved from the Pilbara for Olive Python DNA to determine not only whether there was a snake in the area recently but even start to learn more about how related the snakes within small areas are! (think – but for snakes!) 

Olive Pythons are listed as vulnerable and face many threats such as loss of habitat, pollution and the illegal pet trade. In fact, Perth Zoo’s three Olive Pythons were wildlife confiscations, being illegally kept and probably poached from the wild. 

Check out the video of one of our females assisting with the DNA research. Tipping the scales over 10 kilograms and measuring more than 3 metres, she’s an amazing animal and helping us learn more about her species.