ROYAL PYTHON (python regius)
The royal python is the perfect snake. It prefers smaller enclosures and requires minimal care compared to some other species. As a traditional python it has the wow factor of the big boas and pythons without the size, weight and unpredictability. In my quest to have owned most species of reptile I constantly come back to the pythons and boas, I guess the traditional look and muscular frame of these wonderful animals have everything you would find attractive in a snake. I purchased a hatchling in 08 fresh from the farm. This snake has behaved very well apart from the obvious few bites which go hand in hand with our great hobby. Royals when young tend to strike out at you if you invade there space. I would think this is a predator avoidance thing rather than a vicious nature. My snake fed on day one and hasn’t stopped since. I feed my royal every week now as a sub adult and it is doing very well, easily handelable and generally easy to look after. The royal python is commonly known as the ball python also. This is because they twist themselves into a ball shape when held.
Here are some top tips
Most baby royals are bought into the U.K in the last week of April to early may. This is when they hatch and are graded and sent out from the farms. Thankfully the practice of wild collected royals is just about finished. Royals can be very hard to get feeding; you will find this in just about all wild caught snakes. Ghana is the biggest exporter of captive farmed royals and they do this in a very controlled ethical way. The captive farming of royal pythons is monitored by cites. I would suggest that if you decide to purchase a royal insist on U.K bred or Ghana imports. For every egg hatched one U.S dollar is paid in tax. This keeps up the base price and puts much needed money into the government of Ghana. A few U.K traders put money into this venture in the early 1990s and this has been a massive success. The royal python comes from Ghana, Togo and Benin in the greatest numbers but are found in other areas of Africa also. They are found in scrub land and around farms and forests. This is where the prey source is found in good numbers. There are thought to be up to 18 million wild royals in Africa but 9 to 14 million eggs are laid every year. If left in the wild most of these eggs are eaten by pigs and rats, and are destroyed by humans. Since Ghana started to farm royals the wild population has grown. Now the snakes have a monetary value they are looked after by the parks dept and a percentage of eggs taken are released back into the wild. This practice not only ensures high quality babies for the pet trade but as a massive percentage make it through to hatching the number let free again is higher than if all eggs were left in the scrubland. This is sustainable and ethical to highest standard.
Royals have a very bad reputation when it comes to feeding but as now all baby royals are farmed this has helped with this problem. They tend to feed in very low light around dusk. They are nervous by nature and will be put off feeding if they are surrounded by vibrations from noise and bright light. Royals also have a nasty tendency to regurge the food source if stressed out so try not to handle the snake for 48 hours after feeding. Snakes do not have ears so you would think noise would not be a problem? Wrong they can pick up vibrations very well and say if your TV was booming out the latest Metallica track or your kids were running about they would feel this through vibration and probably think it was danger. Try to offer food with low light just before bed. This will provide a good no nonsense environment for feeding. If the snake will not strike feed it will not hurt to leave the defrosted mouse in the viv over night. If the food has not been taken remove it in the morning. Some royals will need tease or assist feeding. Try touching the mouse on the sides of the snakes mouth this will sometimes induce a strike. The easiest way to assist feed is to gently open the snake’s mouth with the face of the mouse and wiggle it in, usually this will get the snake excited and it will feed. If this doesn’t work consult your local shop. A temperature of 26 to 30 degrees for the daytime is fine and I use a thermostat on a heat matt to generate this. I also use a 2% u.v.b compact lamp. As I have said before all snakes see in the u.v.a wavelength so the inclusion of good u.v lighting is essential. They will also absorb u.v.b through the skin this has been proven by placing photo receptors under the skin in tests. Snakes absorb most of the usable d3 from the livers of the prey source but good u.v.b will top this up. If you decide to use a ceramic heater or spotlight make sure the lamp is CAGED, snakes will wrap around a recently cooled spotlight and sleep. When the lamp turns back on again they get terrible burns that are sometimes fatal!! Keep a strict feeding and shedding record, this is good practice with all snakes.
Royals seem to prefer a smaller viv than most snakes of their size. Fully grown royal will grow to 5 or 6 feet with females being slightly larger. I start them off as babies in snake tubs and work them up to a 3 foot viv at about a year old. In the wild they seem to spend most of the time balled up in a hole in the ground only leaving to thermo regulate and feed. Baby royals should be fed every week to build up fat stores and encourage growth, as they grow increase food size and time between feeds. An adult royal will feed on large rats, guinea pigs, small rabbits etc once a fortnight.
Fresh clean water should be provided daily if possible. Royals love to bathe and will spend hours in the water with just their nose holes poking out. They will also like most reptiles’ use the water as a toilet, Please change quickly after this has happened.
Vitamins. I am a passionate follower of neutrobol. I find this supplement to be the most stable and best quality by far. I dust the food source once a week. You can over feed this supplement so don’t overdo it.
Never feed live rodents to snakes. This is a bad idea not only does it stress the prey source out but they bite snakes badly. You will also find that snakes that have been bought up on live food will not take defrost easily. Make sure you buy your food from a good clean source. Mammals that have defrosted and have been refrozen will carry deadly bacteria. Ask your retailer where they source the frozen food.
Humidity… Royals prefer a 50% to 60% humidity. Make sure the vivs is very well ventilated though or the moisture will mix with bacteria and give the snake a respetory infection. Again wooden viv are best as they provide cover on 3 sides and hold heat and moisture nicely. I increase humidity by spraying down the viv daily.
I keep all my snakes on aspen; I find this the best as dirty areas can be easily removed. Aspen also dries easily so bacteria is not so much of an issue. I have stopped using orchid bark on all my enclosures. It would be a good idea to keep baby royals on news paper. You will be able to spot any parasites if this arises and it’s very easy to change the whole lot in one go. Keep your vivs clean!! Decorate the enclosure to your taste, royals will spend time under rocks and in caves and they will also climb and hang from branches so try all when ready and see what yours likes.
A royal python could live 20 to 30 years in captivity if you do your bit right. If you plan to buy a royal please make sure you are willing to care for it for this amount of time.
The royal python is bred in huge numbers in Europe and the U.S. this is because of the hobby of collecting colour morphs. The royal python has been bred in a number of colours now and can command a very large price. There is a massive online presence for colour morph keepers and specialist info about the gene pool can be found there. I would suggest you visit Cold blooded, crystal palace reptiles, jungle phase and south coast exotics in the U.K to see good examples of colour variants.
Above all enjoy your snakes, ours is one of the best hobbies around, with the variety of species available and the fantastic way vivs stack we can collect and breed most of the wonderful creatures we share the earth with. Respect them, care for them, enjoy them and most importantly breed them as you never know when a species will be stopped from being exported. Let’s make sure that there is enough in the gene pool so if that happens we are not caught out like we were when the bird imports were stopped!
Image referenced from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ball_python_lucy.JPG