Ball Pythons are Africa's smallest pythons. They are generally active at night, when they hunt using eyes that are well adapted to low light levels. They also have special heat-sensing pits around their mouths to detect prey in the dark. Since these pits pick up heat in the form of infrared radiation, they are well equipped to detect the body heat released by their prey.
Pythons are not venomous; they are constrictors. They grab hold of their prey and throw a number of coils around it, holding so tightly that the animal cannot breathe. Constrictors do not crush their prey; they suffocate them.
Royal pythons are also known as ball pythons because when they are threatened they coil up into tight balls with their heads well protected inside.
During the hot dry season, pythons lie inactive (aestivate) in underground burrows. They emerge when the rains arrive in order to mate. However, royal pythons only mate once every three or four years, so that they reproduce at a low rate. This means that their populations are particularly vulnerable to over-hunting. Ball Pythons are endangered in the wild because they are collected for the pet trade, as well as being hunted for their flesh and skins.
Distribution: Central Africa.
Food: Small mammals, birds, lizards and other species of snakes.
Size: 1.2 m (4 ft).
Maturity: 3 - 5 years.
Breeding: 4 - 10 unusually large eggs.
Life span: 25 years.