Royal (Ball) Python Fact File
Royal pythons are named for the habit of former African royals who would wear them as living jewelry. Their alternative name of ball python comes from their habit of rolling in to a ball when threatened.
These small pythons feed on a range of small mammals. They have one of the longest lifespans of any python with one living for 47 years.
Females incubate up to 11 eggs by wrapping around them which keeps them warm through sharing body heat.
Read on to learn more about these rad reptiles.
The royal or ball python is a small species of python from Africa. They are covered with an intricate pattern of dark brown markings which cover a tan or yellowish background. On the underside they are cream colored.
On either side of the mouth is a heat-sensing pit which can be used to detect the body heat which is released by their prey.
As a snake they have a forked tongue which they can stick out to help find pheromones in the air.
Inside their mouth are around 150 needle sharp teeth. They are used for gripping prey.
An adult will measure between 0.8 and 1.2m (2.5-4ft) long with an average weight between 1.8 and 2.5kg (4-5lbs).
Royal pythons are carnivores. Their diet includes a variety of warm blooded prey such as small mammals. Adults mainly eat rodents while juveniles feed on small birds.
Prey is seized whole. As a python they are non-venomous. Prey is killed by wrapping around it and constricting it.
Their unique bone structure in the head helps to consume prey which is up to twice as big as their head.
These animals have an ability to go for up to a year without eating.
Royal pythons are found in Africa where they range across the West and center of the country. Here they can be found in the following countries – Benin; Cameroon; Central African Republic; The Democratic Republic of the Congo; Côte d’Ivoire; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Liberia; Mali; Niger; Nigeria; Senegal; Sierra Leone; South Sudan; Togo and Uganda.
They make their home in forests, savannas, shrublands and grasslands. Some will live alongside humans in agricultural lands.
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Breeding takes place from September to November.
The female will lay a clutch of between 1 and 11 eggs within a burrow or between rocks. Older pythons tend to produce larger clutches.
She then wraps around the eggs and incubates them for the next two months. To assist with this the eggs are slightly adhesive to keep them together.
At hatching a royal python will measure 30cm (12in) long. They are independent as soon as they are born and can feed for themselves.
Sexual maturity is reached between 3 and 4 years old.
Royal pythons have a slow rate of reproduction with adults breeding once every three to four years.
Most of their activity occurs between dawn and dusk. During the day they will retreat to a burrow under the ground.
Their eyes are well adapted to low light levels helping them to find their food at night.
During the warm season of the year these animals will aestivate underground in their burrow. This is a period of inactivity.
Every 6 to 8 weeks they shed their old skin which helps to heal it.
These animals are successful swimmers which helps them to move around. They are also successful climbers though much of their time is spent on the ground.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the royal python include cats, larger snakes such as the black cobra and birds of prey.
Royal pythons are also known as ball pythons. This name comes from their defensive habitat of rolling in a ball with their head protected in the center when they are threatened.
The royal python is among the most commonly collected species of python for the international pet trade. They are also collected for food and leather by the local people. Both of these collections have a significant impact on their population.
Large amounts of these animals are bred in captivity but as yet this has not seen any significant decrease to the poaching.
Bush fires have also been recorded to reduce the population of royal pythons.
These pythons assist humans by reducing populations of rats and mice in the environment.
The regius portion of their scientific name means ‘of royalty.’
Royal python is thought to be a reference to African rulers who previously wore live pythons as jewelry.
Sandro De Sousa, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Brian Gratwicke, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Eclipse Exotics, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Clément Bardot, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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