Rameshwaram Ornamental Tarantula
Rameshwaram ornamental spider is a species of arboreal spiders that dwell in trees and sail down like a leaf hence often called parachute spider. It is also known as Rameshwaram parachute ornamental. Named after the Hanumavilasum plantation, it was discovered by Andrew Smith in 2004 in the Hanumavilasum temple. Today Rameshwaram ornamental is a critically endangered species.
This spider looks very familiar to its sister species Poecilotheria fasciata. But upon close inspection these both spiders have been found with different markings and patterns. Rameshwaram ornamental tarantula has an intense yellow coloration on the underside of the legs. The light and dark brownish-black stripes across its body give it an amazing camouflage on trees.
Rameshwaram ornamental tarantula belongs to the genus Poecilotheria. The scientific name for Rameshwaram ornamental tarantula is Poecilotheria hanumavilasumica. Poecilotheria is commonly called ornamental tarantulas because of their speed, toxin and vivid color patterns in comparison to other tarantulas.
Initially, the species was considered Indian endemic but later it was identified outside its native habitat Tamil Nadu, in Mannar District, Sri Lanka. So the species has fragmented distribution over the land bridge between Tamil Nadu, India and Mannar District, Sri Lanka.
Preferred natural habitat
The species is critically endangered due to its natural habitat loss. Housing, recreational and touristic developments in the area have resulted in its habitat destruction. The habitat of Rameshwaram ornamental tarantula is palm, tamarind and casuarinas plantations on the Rameshwaram island restricted over an area of 100 square kilometers.
Preferred food in the wild
The main food of this species is insects which it attacks by injecting toxic venom from its hiding place. Most of these insects are harmful to crops therefore Poecilotheria hanumavilasumica play an important role in the ecosystem.
From sling to adult Pecilotheria hanumavilasumica are lightning-fast. So you have to be very careful during shifting or maintenance as they can escape very easily. They are aggressive and can bite in self-defence if provoked. They have big fangs and the bites can be extremely painful. Their venom is significantly toxic and a serious bite could result in hospitalization. Often when several siblings are kept together they end up eating each other so better kept separately. However, there are mixed views about keeping this species together.
Feeding as a pet
Poecilotheria hanumavilasumica can be fed live crickets, grasshopper or flying insects such as moths.
Life span both male and female
The life span of Rameshwaram ornamental tarantula is not so great, mortality is high due to cannibalism and predation.
Males hardly survive another season after breeding however, females live up to three years.
Pet enclosure type
Rameshwaram ornamental tarantula is an arboreal species of tarantulas so they require a vertical enclosure with an arboreal setup. The temperature in the pet enclosure should be maintained between 22-24°C (Winter), 26-28°C (Summer) and the recommended humidity level is 70-80%. You might need heat lamps, thermostats and heat mats to provide an adequate hot temperature.
Pet enclosure habitat layout
The enclosure should be equipped with a branch to climb upon and a hollow cork bark to hide under. Make sure the branches are fixed properly so they don’t fall when the tarantula climbs onto them. You can even keep the live plants in the enclosure which help best for providing an area for breeding and egg-laying. You need to place a customary dish with water inside. They don’t like wet places and do well in the dry substrate so moist the substrate only once a month and mist it weekly. The substrate in the closure should be 10cm to 15 cm deep.
Mating / reproducing
The female should be well fed before introducing them to males as they sometimes end up eating the male Poecilotheria hanumavilasumica. However, the reproductive rate is not so attractive, since the maximum number of spiderlings observed with a mother is nearly 50. Due to habitat loss, its population is continuously declining.
The male Rameshwaram ornamental tarantula grows up to 1.7inches whereas the female grows up to 2.6 inches.
Despite the aesthetic value, Poecilotheria hanumavilasumica is not widely traded as a pet due to its relatively low population. Serious individual and government actions are required to improve its habitat quality to save this species from extinction.