Ball pythons are so named because they do indeed form a tight ball, with the head at the centre, when they are threatened. Also called the royal python, the snake is beautifully patterned, with large round blotches of light brown on a dark brown background, though colours can vary from tan to yellow. The underbelly is usually cream coloured. The snakes grow 1-1.8 metres long and are heavy bodied with a slender neck and slightly larger head. The ball python is a non-venomous snake that is harmless to humans. As it feeds on rodents, it plays an important role in farm areas, keeping rat and mice numbers down.
Ball pythons are found in west and central Africa, just north of the Equator, in grasslands and open forests. They spend most of the day in burrows underground, and come out at night to hunt, though they are most active at dawn and dusk.
Adult ball pythons feed almost exclusively on rodents, but young pythons eat small birds as well. The snakes typically ambush their prey – they lie in wait and strike suddenly, swallowing the prey alive and whole, or killing it by constriction.
Ball pythons breed from September to November and lay 1-11 eggs in a burrow. The female incubates the eggs by balling around them and some two months later they hatch. The eggs are slightly adhesive and stick together. Just before hatching they lose their stickiness.