Ball Python


Lifespan: 20-30 years

Wild Diet: Carnivorous; rats and gerbils, following them into their burrows.

Zoo Diet: Mice or rats

Predators: Lizards, other snakes, birds, and small mammals


IUCN Status: Least Concern

Habitat/Range: Native to savannahs, forest edges and clearings of Western and Central Africa.

Characteristics: Ball pythons have short tails and powerful, muscular bodies. They are typically light brown/green or black in color, with a tan/yellow underbelly. However, ball pythons come in many morphs, which are genetic mutations that alter the colors and patterns of the scales. Their small, shiny, smooth scales do not overlap. Adults range in length from 3 to over 6 feet, with the average female reaching 3 to 5 feet and the average male, 2-3 feet. A mature female will commonly grow distinctly larger than the male. Males have longer spurs (remnants of hind limbs) but smaller heads than the females. Highly developed sense of smell, and have eyes with vertical pupils. Crepuscular or nocturnal.

Behavior: Docile. Can be shy and very reluctant to bite. Spend much of their lives in underground burrows. On hot days they may be found bathing in shallow water. Kill prey by wrapping around them and constricting or by pressing them against the burrow walls.

Reproduction: Sexual maturity is reached between 18 months and 4 years, and live 20-30 years, with the oldest recorded Royal Python reaching 48 years of age in captivity. In the wild, pythons breed during the rainy season. The female will lay 4 to 10 leathery shelled eggs. She will remain coiled around the eggs until they hatch, 70 to 85 days later. Average incubation temp: 88F-90F degrees. Average hatchling size: 14"-17".

Conservation: Its main economic importance is its role in controlling rodent pests. In some parts of Africa such as areas in Nigeria, Ghana and Benin, this snake is worshiped and considered sacred, and its population is increasing. In other parts of Africa its survival is at risk because it is highly exploited for the pet trade as well as for food and as a source of leather.