Ball Python

 

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Pet Ball Python

 

Range: Africa, west coast including Benin, Togo, Ghana.   This species can also be found in the rainforests of Cameroon.


Habitat: Forest Regions  savannah grasslands and open forests in West Central Africa.  The Ball python is also encountered in the Rainforests of Cameroon.

Natural Diet: Mammals & birds.

Diet at RainForest: Pre-killed rodents

Size: Females 3-5 feet, Males 2-4 feet

Keeper Notes: One of Africa's smallest python species.   The Ball Python is one of the most frequently bred snakes in captivity today, this species is a very frequently seen pet snake.

During the day, the ball python hides in underground rodent burrows and termite mounds. At night, the ball python wanders about in search of food.  Being primarily a ground hunter this species rarely climbs trees in search of food.  An excellent hunter of small rodents the ball python is responsible for helping the farming community by ridding the area of harmful small rodents such as mice and rats.

All Pythons are constrictors.  Snakes that hunt using constriction as a means of subduing prey will very quickly grab their prey with their teeth using a very fast strike. The constrictor will quickly wrap coils of their bodies around the prey and squeeze or constrict the prey item.  This process does not actually crush the prey and break its bones as is widely reported in the media.  Instead, they squeeze tightly so that the prey animal canít breath and it suffocates, this process usually requires about 3-4 minutes for the prey animal to be killed.

Once the snake is certain the prey item is dead they then begin to search for the animals head, virtually all prey animals are consumed head first.  This process allows the snake to literally "fold" the arms and legs of the prey animal back as the creature is swallowed.  Contrary to popular belief a snake does not "unhinge" it's jaws, the jaws in fact are not actually attached in a mechanical way.  Long tendons and muscles connect the upper and lower jaws.  The lower jaw is actually made up of two separate bones to further enhance the animals ability to manipulate large prey items.

The well defined heat pits can be seen on the upper lip of this ball python.   The pythons as well as several other species of snakes, including North American Pit Vipers, depend on these heat sensing organs to detect warm blooded prey in the dark.

This outstanding photo was taken in natural light by Dr. Love of Sevierville, Tennessee in March of 2012

Once the snake has the animal past it's jaws a series rhythmic muscular contractions then pull the prey down the snakeís throat and into its stomach.   A very large prey item can be observed in the snakes stomach as a large bulge.  Contrary to popular belief the large prey item is not digested by slowing moving down the length of the snake.  Once the prey animal reaches the stomach, usually about 20 minutes for a very large item, the food item is stationary in the snakes stomach as it is gradually digested.    The size of the meal can have an impact on the duration of the digestion, but external factors such as ambient air temperature play a larger roll.  The snake must be careful not to eat when temperatures are too cool, the meal will quite literally decompose faster than the snake can digest it, causing a gaseous bloating in the snake that can result in death.  Ideal air temperatures allow the snake to digest the meal prior to the food item decomposing!  Snakes often will regurgitate a meal when the conditions do not allow it to properly digest the meal, this can include both temperatures that are too high and too low!


The ball python breeds every 2-3 years during the rainy season in December and January. To simulate this rainy season in captivity, the ball python is misted with water and the temperature is dropped to the low 70s. Sexual maturity is reached between 1-4 years. During copulation, the male penetrates the female using its retractable hemipenes, which inverts during mating. Typically, 6-30 days after copulation, the female ovulates. 20 days after ovulation, the female sheds. 24-30 days after she sheds, the female lays 4-10 eggs, which she incubates herself by loosening and tightening her coils around her clutch. It takes 75-80 days for the hatchlings to emerge. In captivity, the eggs are taken from the female and placed in an incubator until they hatch. Once the hatchlings emerge from their eggs, they must fend for themselves. Usually, they return to their eggs for a few days in order to feed.
 

Status in Wild: Declining, primarily due to over collection for the pet, and skin trade.  This snake is occasionally killed for human consumption.  Loss of habitat is beginning to play a larger roll in the continuing decline in the wild populations of the Ball Python. 

Legends: The Ekoi people of Nigeria tell a tale of Python, who took from his mouth a shining stone and sold it to Sheep for a farm. Through a series of events the stone ended up in God's hands who placed it in the night sky whereupon it became the moon. Indeed the royal denotation of the Ball Python's scientific name (Python regius) is no accident.  It was prohibited by laws for anyone but nobility to own a Ball Python, punishable by death!

 

 

 

 

RainForest Adventures zoo, Smoky Mountains, Tennessee near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge TN