This gorgeous snake is a lovely adult male ROYAL PYTHON named Rafiki. I chose this name as royal pythons come from Africa where the Swahili language is spoken and Rafiki is the Swahili word for ‘friend’, which seems entirely suitable for such a calm, friendly snake!
Hatched in Sunderland in 1999, Rafiki is the oldest animal in my collection as well as being one of the longest-serving members of the Jungle Roadshow team! He is exceptionally popular with everyone he meets as he is fantastic in every way and so calm and docile when being handled.
In the picture directly below you can clearly see a series of pink holes or ‘pits’ between the eye and the front of Rafiki’s head. These are very special heat-sensing pits which the majority of pythons have, and which are used to literally detect the heat (or infrared thermal radiation) of their surroundings. If a rodent or other warm-blooded prey item comes close to them whilst they are hunting, a royal python can detect with incredible accuracy the warmest parts of the body to strike at!
Rafiki has absolutely beautiful scaly skin which, unlike many people’s expectations, is not at all wet or slimy but instead is dry, smooth and very soft.
In the USA people more commonly call these snakes BALL PYTHONS rather than royal pythons. This is because this particular species of python is able to roll itself into a ball, with its head hidden in the coils of its body, something it would usually do in the wild to protect itself from predators. You can see a smaller royal python doing this in the pictures below!