Whether you know them as Royal Pythons or Ball Pythons, Python regius seem to have been just about everybody’s first step into the realm of Pythons. It’s easy to see why; relatively speaking, they are an inexpensive snake & not demanding for a responsible keeper. Their captive care is now something which is almost standard, and there’s enough literature out there on breeding these fascinating creatures, that there’s no reason anyone should knowingly buy a wild caught or farmed Royal.
The family of Boidae, has within it, the sub-family of Pythonidae which in itself has approximately 8 genera and 27 species. These species are found in Africa, Australasia, and Asia spanning an incredibly diverse range of habitats from the dry grasslands to the tropical rainforests and just about everywhere in between the two extremes. Three of the three largest snakes kept in captivity are all found within the genus of Python. They are, from largest to smallest of ‘giants’, P. reticulatus, P. molurus, & P. sebae.
Royal Distribution & Physiology
Royal Pythons are compact, thick bodied snakes that are found throughout the African continent, south of the 15˚ longitudinal line. The average sized Royal Python will achieve a length of around 4 ft, with the occasional large female reaching lengths of 6 ft. Most Python species have strongly pitted labial scales. These are sensitive to temperature variation, and seem to be used in a similar hunting fashion to vipers.
Morphology and Colouration
Every year there seems to be another morph produced by a breeder. Some are truly spectacular and others leave me wondering why they would even ask money for such an ugly thing. Breeders may produce and work with morphs constantly as they are trying to give the snakes a new paint job. I can tell you, some the morphs I have seen at the shows this year are unbelievable.
Above photos supplied by John are from ‘Heather’s Herps’
As with any new pet, there should be an acclimation period where the snake is allowed to adjust and familiarize itself with it’s new environment. Most people, when they get a new pet, whether it be a reptile or mammal their first reaction after bringing it home is to call all their friends and show it off. With Royal Pythons this can be extremely detrimental to the snake’s behaviour and feeding later. I recommend at least a week long period of no handling a Royal Python after it’s brought home.
After a week of being in the vivarium you can begin to handle the Royal Python for about ten minutes at a time and only handle the snake only every other day. At about the third or fourth day is when I will typically attempt its first feeding. When the snake has fed successfully on multiple occasions, then, and only then will I lengthen the handling time at ten minute increments. You should never under any circumstances put any snake around your neck or anyone else’s. You should also never put the snake anywhere near anyone’s face. This is to keep yourself and your friends safe. Too many times people forget that snakes have only two defenses and these are bite and squeeze. Granted, Royal Pythons are not large snakes but if you have ever fallen victim to any snake bite, you will understand that a bite to the face could be a very serious thing.
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