Prince is a Ball Python (python regius) who came to the foundation from an individual who had him as a pet and was no longer able to give him the care and attention he needs. Now Prince is a part of our educational programs and loves going to off-site programs to educate people about Ball Pythons.
Ball Pythons are native to Western and Central Africa. They usually inhabit dry brushland or open grassland. They can be found either in trees or on the ground. They are most comfortable in temperatures ranging from 80-90 degrees and enjoy basking in temperatures up to 95 degrees. These snakes can grow up to 4-5 feet in length and can live from 20 to 30 years. In the wild, these pythons live on a variety of prey including birds, lizards, small mammals, and other snakes. They are able to last for months without eating; sometimes up to a year if no acceptable prey is available. Ball Pythons are nocturnal and therefore most active at night. During the day they usually hide in an abandoned burrow.
The Ball Python gets its name from the shape it assumes when threatened. They tend to roll themselves up into a very tight ball, tucking their head into the center. In the United Kingdom they are often referred to as Royal Pythons because of stories that described African royalty wearing these snakes wrapped around them like jewelry. They are a generally non-aggressive snake and will usually only bite as a last resort when extremely frightened or provoked. In Africa they are often killed for food or for their beautiful skin. They are not currently on the endangered species list. However, thousands of them are exported from Africa every year as a part of the pet trade. This is having a negative impact on their natural ecology since they play a large role in controlling the small mammal and rodent populations, and also serve as food for larger predators such as cats or birds of prey.
Ball Pythons reproduce by laying eggs. The female will actually wrap herself around the clutch (group of usually 4-5 eggs) and vibrate her body using friction to keep the eggs warm. She will not leave the eggs even to eat until they hatch approximately 3 months later.
Pythons have an extra sense which allows them to detect changes in temperature. They have several small openings along the top of their mouth called pits. These pits have infrared sensors which can detect miniscule changes in temperature, and inform the snake that there is prey nearby.
The Ball Python’s relatively small size (they are the smallest of all the pythons) and docile nature means that they are popular pets. However, anyone considering keeping one of these snakes as a pet should be aware that they are a long-term commitment since they can live up to 30 years. It is also important to know where the snake came from as wild-caught and imported snakes do not make good pets. They should come from a reputable breeder and be handled regularly from a young age.