General Information – Ball pythons are in the family Pythonidae. They’re know as constrictors because they use constriction to subdue their prey, this consists of them biting the head area of a prey item and wrapping 2 or 3 coils around the animal and squeezing until the prey item is no longer responsive.
For the remainder of this article we’ll cover:
- Conservation Status
Range- They’re native to the continent of Africa and are found in the countries of Ghana, Togo and Benin but strong populations are also found in Guinea, Senegal, Sierra, Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Cameroon, Nigeria, Central African Republic as well as Uganda and Sudan. The gross supply of exportation takes place out of Ghana where the majority of snake hunters and farmers are located.
Habitat – these guys love the plains and grasslands of the savannas and can also be found sporadically on the forest edge as well as other wooded areas. Ball python spend a large portion of their lives inside termite mounds or deep inside rodent burrows. The native climate in their region ranges from mid to lower 70′s to low 80′s but has an annual precipitation of nearly 29 inches with the majority of that rainfall in the months of May and June.
Description – Ball Pythons are a mildly heavy bodied boid that reach a maximum length of about 4-4 1/2 feet range but there are the occasional female that reaches 5 foot or better. I’ve only personally seen 1 true 6 footer and that animal was owned by Chris Gibson who is a breeder from Kentucky. I’ve heard about a few other 6 footers over the years but they were never confirmed. Females are generally much larger and robust than males because naturally females need the extra body mass in order to for egg production. The normal phase ball pythons are light brown and and black in color with a little mixture of gold and yellow. The darker colors are found in the dorsal banding and head area.
History – One of the main reasons why ball pythons make such great pets is because of their very docile temperament and timid natural. Speaking from personal experience, I interact with 100′s of ball pythons in my personal collection pretty much daily and I can count the number of times I get bitten each year on one had. The few bites that I have received have come when I’m removing eggs from a female which is more than understandable. Typically, when they feel threaten instead of biting like many other species of snakes, ball pythons simply roll up into a tight ball tucking their head deep into the center of their coils. The head tuck is to protect the most sensitive part of their body. This “balling” behavior is where they get the name “ball” python because when they feel threatened that’s exactly what they tend to do, now captive born and bred (CBB) animals typically don’t exhibit this balling behavior as they are much more accustom to handling and captivity in general. Over in Europe they are more commonly referred to as “royal pythons” because Cleopatra thought is was a great expression of fashion to wear a python around her wrist so the name “royal” python was born. I bet Cleopatra would have killed for some of the crazy designer morphs we have today, talk about a fashion statement.
Longevity - One of the things that needs to be considered before buying your first ball python is the fact that these guys live a very long time. It’s not uncommon for ball pythons to live well into their 30′s and even 40′s in captivity while under proper care. A good friend of mine that’s a professional breeder of out Florida named Eugene Bessette has documented records on a female ball python he imported from Africa as a sub-adult back in the 70′s that is still producing viable clutches of eggs even to this day sum 30 plus years later! I’ve seen and held this animal and she still looks great for her age.
Legalities – Now a days before you purchase a snake you really need to check you local laws and ordinances to ensure you are compliant, but for the most part ball pythons don’t tend to be very heavy legislated. There are places like New York City were all pythons as a species are banned out right.
Conservation Status – Ball pythons are longer considered a threatened species which has a lot to do with the that fact that they are now considered a CITES Appendix II species by US Fish & Wildlife. Being an Appendix II means for the most part you are required to have special CITES permits to import or export these animals, from both the importing country as well as the exporting country. These CITES permits have nearly eliminated a lot of the python meat and skin trade market which was hurting the overall species population.