Updated: Feb 16
The Royal Python (Python regius) also known as the 'ball python' is a species of snake endemic to West and Central Africa where they are often found living in open forests, grasslands and shrub-lands. Royal Pythons are one of the most popular pet snakes to own due to their docile temperament, great handleability and ease of care. They get the nickname the 'ball python' due to their main defence being curling up into a ball and hiding away when they feel threatened or scared.
The Royal Python is considered to be a medium bodied snake, reaching lengths anywhere between 3ft and 6ft with the females generally being the bigger of the two (not in all cases though!). They have a very distinctive head shape with a smaller neck going into a much wider body. They have what we call heat pits along the sides of their face- their heat pits contain a membrane which detects infrared radiation from warm bodies up to one meter away. What is considered to be a 'normal' Royal Python in captivity is that of a dark brown/ black snake with lighter brown patches on its back and side, however, due to captive breeding there is estimated to be over 4,000 different Royal Python morphs. Royal Python morphs are selectively bred by isolating certain genetic mutations and breeding them specifically for different variations of patterns and colours.
Contrary to popular belief, Royal Pythons can get easily stressed out when placed into an enclosure that is too big- causing them possible issues with feeding. The minimum requirement for a Royal Python would be a 3ft x 2ft x 18inch wooden vivarium, with a heat bulb connected to a dimming thermostat to maintain and control the temperatures. We would always recommend upgrading the size of the vivarium if you have a larger specimen just so that the animal has a more comfortable amount of space to move around in. Royal Pythons feel a lot more confident when their enclosure has lots of places to hide and explore- with them being quite stressful animals we want to make sure that they feel as secure as possible.
The main diet for a Royal in captivity is frozen/ thawed rodents which are determined in size depending upon the thickest part of the snake's body. When they are hatchlings we tend to feed them more frequently but when they are adults they are usually on a routine of being fed once every 14 days. As the snake gets bigger the prey item will increase in size as well as the length of time between feeds increasing. In the wild, royals tend to eat a variety of prey items from small birds and other small mammals alongside the rodents that are apart of the African wildlife.
Royal Pythons are one of the most popular pet snakes due to their docile temperament making them incredible animals to handle, even for children (when they are supervised of course). Although it can happen on occasion if the animal feels threatened or if it is in a feeding response, the Royal Python is unlikely to bite. Now, this is not to say that it won't ever happen but the likeliness of it happening often is slim. They are very calm snakes which makes handling them an incredible experience.
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