Ball pythons are wildlife. Not pets

The global trade in ball pythons is based on a myth – that snakes don’t think and feel. Our groundbreaking report reveals the true depths of the cruelty of the ball python trade

Follow a ball python’s journey from capture to pet, and everything in between, below

It's time for lasting change for wild animals

The cycle of suffering is endless for wild animals used as pets, like ball pythons.

They’re poached from the wild or captive bred, then transported, which can be deadly. Then they suffer a lifetime in captivity, with lack of adequate shelter, food and room to roam.

The poor conditions in each stage of their cruel journey don’t just cause suffering, they are incubators for disease.

Suffering at scale

Snakes are living, feeling animals. Not commodities.

Approximately 100,000 live ball pythons are currently being exported out of Africa every year – mainly to the USA.

Ball pythons are not aggressive by nature, so they’re an easy target for our greed.

Protecting wild ball pythons isn’t our only urgent concern.

Crammed into tiny tanks, subjected to inappropriate conditions and cruel breeding practices, the many thousands of captive-bred ball pythons are suffering too.

Wild caught or bred, life in captivity is no life at all for a wild animal. We need to end this cruel industry now.

Beyond the terrible suffering of wild animals, this global trade is endangering people too. Pandemics like coronavirus happen because we exploit wildlife.

 

Close contact between people and stressed wild animals is a dangerous cocktail that can lead to outbreaks of illnesses like salmonella, or even pandemics – a reality we are all living in today.

Ball pythons on display at an expo

Ball pythons on display at an expo

End the trade of wild animals forever

We are calling on governments, organisations and nations to unite to end to global wildlife trade.

Join our movement to bring an end to this suffering forever. Together, we can end this cruel trade.

Make a #Promise4Wildlife

Act now

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Hunting

Bll python caught by hunter - photo by Aaron Gekoski for World Animal Protection

The process of hunting wild ball pythons is brutal

Hunters scour the bush, usually in groups accompanied by dogs. When they find pythons after tearing through the undergrowth, they are pulled from theirs burrows. This can cause snakes immense distress, and injuries.

Ball python held by hunter - photo by Aaron Gekoski for World Animal Protection

Ball python held by hunter - photo by Aaron Gekoski for World Animal Protection

They’re thrown into sacks, often with many other snakes. For solitary animals like ball pythons, this process can be extremely traumatic.

It also increases the risk of disease and death.

This is just the beginning of a ball python’s painful journey to become a pet.

Ranching

Ball pythons being ranched - photo by Aaron Gekoski for World Animal Protection

After they’re hunted, wild ball pythons end up in breeding facilities known as ranches

Pregnant ball pythons and eggs are especially targeted and kept in ranches so that live babies can be exported.

Bally python in a ranching facility in Ghana - photo by Aron Gekoski for World Animal Protection

Ball python in a ranching facility in Ghana - photo by Aron Gekoski for World Animal Protection

A portion of mother snakes and hatchlings are supposed to be safely returned to the wild, but research has revealed that’s not always the case.

Many hunters and ranchers are not following these guidelines, jeopardising wild python populations.

The only way to prevent ball pythons from being exposed to cruelty and population loss is to stop the trade now.

Expos and breeding

Ball pythons at an exotic pet expo - photo by Aaron Gekoiski for World Animal Protection

Can you imagine anywhere further removed from the wild than a pet expo?

Row after row of snakes in tiny, cramped and uncomfortable tanks and jars are stuffed into giant warehouses, to be browsed and handled like products on a shelf.

Ball pythons on display at an expo in the UK

Ball pythons on display at an expo in the UK

For wild animals like ball pythons, this is nothing short of torture. How would you feel if you were forced into a space so small you couldn’t even stand up when you wanted to?

Some of the most sought-after ball pythons are called ‘morphs’. These snakes have been intensively and selectively bred for unusual colours and markings, meaning breeders can sell them at a higher price.

But these ‘cool’ markings come at a terrible cost to pythons’ welfare.

Ball python morphs displayed at an expo in Memphis, USA - photo by Aaron Gekoski for World Animal Protection

Ball python morphs displayed at an expo in Memphis, USA - photo by Aaron Gekoski for World Animal Protection

Irresponsible breeding can result in genetic disorders and deformities such as ‘star gazing’ – a condition where the python’s head falls back, so they are constantly looking up.

Another disorder, ‘wobble head’, leads to pythons’ heads shaking uncontrollably.

As pets

Ball python being held at an expo