Find out why fanciers love the black-eyed leucistic ball python.

By Charlene Bobis
Photos by Jeffrey C. Lim

The Python regius or ‘super fire’, ‘black-eyed leucistic’, or ‘black-eyed Lucy’ ball python is considered by fanciers to be the Holy Grail of ball pythons as it is the homozygous (having identical alleles or gene pairs for a single trait) form of the Fire Ball Python. Technically considered ‘pied’ in coloring, its distinctive black eyes feature red pupils.

The ‘Super’ Ball Python

This ball python’s stunning whitish, patternless coloring was first produced in England by crossing two ‘aberrant’ African Fire Ball imports. When it comes to this genetic morph, popular local breeder Pitlair explains that the term ‘super’ is used in the hobby to denote the result when two parents of the same morph produce offspring that is distinguishably different from the
parents.

Given how much breeding is involved, the term also adds to the animal’s mystique, with the connotation of desirability and superiority. It helps, Pitlair points out, that there is no genetic defect inherent in the black-eyed lucy. This name came about as a shorter form of ‘black-eyed leucistic’, which is used to describe the appearance of a white animal.

Health, care, and feeding In Pitlair’s experience, these pythons grow from 3 to 4 feet. “They are only given mice and/or rats. But they can be given a variety of prey, like hamsters, gerbils, or other rodents. Chicks, quails, and the like can also be included in their diets,” he says.

What are the most important considerations when it comes to the care of a black-eyed lucy? “I would say temperature and humidity are the two other important things a keeper must consider, aside from food and water,” Pitlair says.

As for their habitat, believe it or not, the smaller, the better. “These are shy animals and actually prefer a tighter enclosure to a bigger one. A 36” x 18” x 5” H enclosure would be suitable for an adult ball python. There are so many substrates available out there that can be used; I just got used to using unprinted newsprint paper.”

He continues, “In my experience, they do seem to prefer a tight, enclosed place to feel secure. You can use a hide box, which can be as simple as plastic container with an opening placed upside down, or you can buy a premade hide box online or pet shops.”

You know your black-eyed lucy is healthy when it eats and defecates regularly, Pitlair explains. Generally, ball pythons are hardy animals, and this accounts for their popularity. What a keeper should watch out for “…is when they lethargic, or if they make wheezing sounds, or if the skin looks dull. If you regularly check your snake you’ll be able to pick up on these changes, even subtle changes,” he cautions.

Another thing to watch out for are parasites and diseases. “There are external
and internal parasites. They also tend to get respiratory infections. Then there is a virus they are susceptible to that’s called IBD or Inclusive Body Disease, which is normally fatal. This is why cleanliness is important.”

Shy ‘Lucy’

Contrary to the stereotype perpetuated by popular media, the ball python isn’t a ferocious animal. Pitlair laughs as he explains, “They are the exact opposite of fearsome; they are so shy that they curl up into a knot like a ball when held, hence their name: ‘ball’ python.”

How did he get into the hobby? Believe it or not, he started by keeping and breeding leopard geckos. And his foray into ball python keeping was slow and careful. “A fellow keeper had a ball python collection and convinced me to try some ball pythons. It took a while before I got my first ball python; I tried to read and ask as much I could about them, to see if they would fit
my personality and lifestyle.”

Pitlair continues, “What got me hooked was the ease of care, non-aggressive personality, and the endless morphs which can be combined to come up with spectacular looking animals. Isn’t it simply amazing that a seeming ordinary looking snake to a produce a totally white snake?” he marvels.

What, for him, is the appeal of this creature? “Different people derive different kinds of fulfillment or enjoyment from keeping a ball python. Some enjoy handling; others are relaxed just looking at them. For others like me, there is the opportunity to combine different morphs and to be able to produce amazing looking animals.”

Tips for Beginners

He shares Animal Scene’s passion for education before acquisition. “Keeping a ball python is fairly simple. But like all animals, you need to do exhaustive research before you even get your first snake,” Pitlair explains.

How about the temperament of the black-eyed lucy—and indeed, all ball pythons? “Some are friendlier than others; some are more shy; some frighten easier, but I don’t know if you’ll call these personalities. They do not respond or interact like dogs or cats. Ball python are generally friendly snakes; normally, they don’t bite and are more tolerant of handling,” he says.

So where can a Pinoy beginner acquire a ball python legally, and what accessories will he or she need? “Ball pythons have been increasingly becoming popular and there are now many DENR-registered breeders to choose from.

Social media like Facebook would be a good start to look. There are so many groups and classified groups in Facebook. There are also more pet and exotic pet events being held in malls and event places. Actually that’s a very good place to start because you get to see, touch, and ask directly from the breeder.”

Additional sources:
• http://pythonregius.com/blackeyedleucisticballpythons.aspx
• http://www.ralphdavisreptiles.com/matrix/traits/lucy_black_eye.asp
• http://www.sidlaanreptiles.com/?p=220

This appeared as “Lucy with the Beautiful Eyes” in Animal Scene’s September 2015 issue.