HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
Royal pythons are remarkably beautiful, non-venomous snakes. The name ‘royal python’ is based in part on the story that Cleopatra, an Egyptian queen supposedly wore the snake around her wrist. These are the smallest of the African pythons.
These pythons are also known as Ball pythons. Their name was given to them because they curl themselves into a ball with their head in the center when they are stressed or frightened. The ball is so tight and compact that the snake can be rolled along the ground. This is the only python that has this adaptation.
In general, Royal pythons are docile, curious, and gentle. These snakes are the symbol of the earth to the African people. If accidentally killed, Africans will place the snake in a coffin and give it a funeral.
Royal pythons are brightly-coloured, stocky snakes. Their body have large spots of brown outlined in white and black. The spots on young Royal pythons are yellow and green outlined in white and black. Their belly is a white or cream with scattered black markings. The head is flat on top, with no brows above their round eyes. They have square, boxy snout and heavy jaw muscles that make the sides of their head, behind the eyes, bulge outwards. A healthy Royal python will be round and firm.
These snakes are primarily terrestrial and solitary in nature. They are nocturnal and are active at night seeking shelter in disused animal burrows or termite mounds during the day. These snakes seldom bite.
Like most pythons, they are good climbers, but they are usually seen on the ground. These pythons are also excellent swimmers and have the ability to pump air inside the body in order to prevent sinking. To dive they will release some of the air.
Royal pythons are oviparous. The females will typically lay between four to 10 large, leathery eggs. The female coils around the eggs, and provides them with the necessary insulation until they are ready to hatch. The eggs hatch after 55 to 60 days.
Royal pythons only grow about three or four feet long. Females tend to be slightly bigger than males.
Royal pythons feed on birds, lizards, other snakes and sometimes small mammals. They actively hunt for rodents such as rats following them into their burrows. Royal pythons kill their prey by wrapping them in constricting coils or pressing them against burrow walls.
Royal pythons are native to Africa. They range from Senegal to Togo in West Africa, and eastward to the Nile River in southern Sudan. These pythons prefer grasslands, savanna and forest edges.
Royal pythons can live up to 50 years, but the average lifespan is about 30 years. —