Ball pythons, also known as royal pythons, are found in Western Equatorial Africa, e.g. Senegal, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Togo, parts of Central Africa, and east into parts of Southern Sudan.
Ball pythons are found in savannah grasslands and open forests throughout their range.
Ball pythons are carnivores that eat rodents almost exclusively. Specifically, they primarily prey on several species of native African rodents, including rats, gerbils, and gerboas. Ball pythons generally do not eat during the times of the year when night temperatures drop to the low 70’s or below.
Ball pythons range in length from 3 to 6 feet.
Ball pythons breed when temperatures drop to the low 70’s or lower and the pythons stop feeding. In Africa, this usually occurs during December and January. Ball pythons breed only every two or three years. After mating the female lays between 4 to 10 eggs depending on her size and condition.
Following laying, the female python stays with her eggs and wraps her coils around them. She protects them by loosening or tightening her coils around them and providing insulation from cool air. Females do not eat during this period, which can last up to three months when the hatchlings emerge from their eggs. After the hatchlings come out of their eggs, they are on their own. They often come back to the eggs for a day or so after they are hatched to feed from them.
Ball pythons are most active at night, when they hunt for their food. When the ball python catches its prey with its sharp, backward pointing teeth, it quickly throws coils around its victim. After the prey is dead, the python swallows its catch whole. As a defense mechanism, the ball python rolls up into a tight ball.
Ball pythons are nocturnal hunters and have eyes that are adapted to dim light. Another adaptation that helps the python in their nocturnal hunting is the heat sensitive organs located along the edge of the python’s mouth. These organs enable it to locate warm-blooded prey in complete darkness.
IUCN Red List: No special status.
US Federal List: No special status.
CITES: No special status.
Ball pythons are a highly exploited species. They are important in the pet trade because of their beautiful colors and how easily they are kept as pets. In their countries of origin they are eaten and used as a source of leather.
Considering that royal pythons only mate every two to three years and have relatively low clutch sizes, it is easy to see why there is special concern as to high rate exploitation that these snakes face. De Vosjoli (1990) states that careful management, including captive incubation of eggs laid by collected females and restocking programs, will be required if the current level of exploitation is to continue. More efforts need to be made to propagate this species in captivity.
Rangel, E. 1999. “Python regius” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 19, 2006 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Python_regius.html.