Lee Richardson Zoo

Ball Python

AKA: Royal Python

Order: Squamata
Family:  Pythonidae  

Family: Boidae
Subfamily: Pythoninae

Scientific name:  Python regius


Description: A small heavy bodied species with a slender neck, large head, and a short tail.  3 ½ ft – 5 ft in length.   Typical ball pythons have large brown markings with lighter medium-brown spots interspersed between the darker spots. They may also have yellow stripes from the nostrils through the eyes which have elliptical pupils. The belly is generally ivory white. Pythons have vestiges of a pelvic girdle with visible external spurs. Pitted lip scales associated with thermoreception .


Home Range:  sub-Saharan central Africa, from Senegal to Liberia and east through Nigeria, Cameroon, and Chad to Sudan and Uganda.


Habitat type:  Found in grasslands, open forests, agricultural areas, and in areas with some cover. Typically found near open water to cool themselves during hot weather. Most of their time is spent in burrows under the ground, although they are able to climb. They are most active during the wet season.


Reproductive habits:  All Pythons lay eggs (oviparous). The female is sexually mature before 3 years of age. Males are mature at about 1 ½ years of age.  Females are generally larger than males.  Eggs measure about 3 ½ in length.  Clutch size is generally about 8 eggs ranging up to 16. The eggs in a clutch adhere together for the duration of incubation.  To protect the eggs, females wrap their bodies around the eggs and remain with their clutch until the eggs hatch. Through muscle contractions she can elevate her temperature to incubate the eggs. Incubation is 44 – 54 days.


Diet in Wild:  predominately rodents.


Diet in Zoo:  Small individuals are fed killed young mice.


General Info:  Ball Pythons are the smallest of the African pythons which makes them better pets then their larger relatives.  Because of this they are the most common python in captivity.  They estivate during the hot, dry spring; becoming active again during the rainy season of June and July.  This is probably due to the lack of potential prey.  Ball pythons sit and wait to ambush prey. Vision plays an important role in securing prey.

The economic importance of ball pythons to rural communities of central and western Africa is control of rodents. In some areas, ball pythons are considered sacred and are fully protected. In these areas there seems to be an awareness of the benefits of these pythons.


Predators:  Ball pythons are named for their defensive behavior of coiling into a ball in order to protect the head in the center of the coils.  Ball pythons attempt to avoid detection by predators and seek cover. Defenses include camouflage, escape attempts, bluffing displays, and biting. The black cobra is one of the few known predators of small and medium  individuals.  Predators of juveniles are humans, carnivorous mammals, and birds of prey.


Conservation status:  The pet trade is suspected for the population decline but is not enough to warrant threatened status. Trade of this species should still be monitored and the numbers exploited reduced. The specie may have benefited from the loss of forest that has occurred throughout their distribution.  A change to highly mechanized farming and substantial use of agrochemicals may change survival rates of ball pythons, affecting populations. Listed CITES Appendix ll and IUCN Red List – Least Concern.


Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol 7, Michael Hutchins Series Editor, 2003, Gale Publishing, Farmington Hills, MI. Pg 419 - 422 , 427.

Living Snakes of the World in color,1987, John M. Mehrtens, Sterling Publishing Co. New York, NY. Pg. 62.

Snakes - A Natural History, Roland Bauchot, editor, 1994, Sterling Publishing Co, New York, NY. Pgs 87,88,162.

Animal Diversity website