The ball python is a species of snake native to West and Central Africa.
Ball Pythons get their name from one of their unique behaviours. When a ball python gets scared or stressed it curls up into a ball.
Ball pythons come from the West and Central Sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan means south of the Sahara Desert. They cannot survive in the desert very well and can be found in grasslands, savannahs, or areas with enough vegetation to hide in.
Ball Pythons are dark brown and black with light brown splodges. Their underside is cream coloured and sometimes has black spots. They grow over a metre long and weigh over 1.5kg!
Ball pythons have scales just like other snakes and is extremely flat and smooth to touch. The scales can protect them and is a bit like armour.
They have lots of muscle which means they are strong and can quickly move across the ground.
When they feel threatened, they tuck in their head and tail and curl up into a ball. This protects their most vital areas and makes it more difficult for a predator to get hold of them. Couple this with those protective scales and you get a super strong defensive position!
Pythons have a keen sense of smell, and they even have infrared receptors. Infrared is part of the spectrum of waves that humans can’t see, but we have special cameras that can. Infrared allows the python to see heat which helps them catch prey.
Ball pythons love to hide underground in the burrows of mammals, where they can find lots of food.
Ball Pythons mostly eat rodents and small birds. The females spend more time underground so tends to go for striped grass mice, black rats, and Gambian pouched rats. The males spend more time above the ground where they can catch small birds.
Ball Pythons are listed as near threatened, which means their numbers are declining. They are in decline due to habitat loss and poaching, as many people want ball pythons as pets.
Ball pythons are not poisonous and are quite calm snakes which makes them perfect pets. People also love the way they curl up because it makes them very easy to handle. Outside of Africa these snakes are bred and raised as pets because you should never try to make a wild animal into a pet.
In Nigeria the Igbo people consider ball pythons to be sacred. If one is found it must be left to roam free or gently placed back into the wild. If one should be accidentally killed the village will build a coffin and hold a funeral for it.
In Ghana people also admire pythons. The people will not hurt or kill them, and it is forbidden to eat one. A Ghanaian folk tale tells of a time the Ghanaians were running away from enemies and a python transformed into a log to help them escape across a river.