Ronaldo the 6ft 'male' snake gives birth to 14 babies in rare 'virgin birth'

25 June 2024, 15:18 | Updated: 25 June 2024, 17:37

Ronaldo, the "male" snake, has given birth to 14 babies, shocking handlers.

The 6ft (1.8m) Brazilian rainbow boa was declared male nine years ago by a vet.

Since then "he" had had no contact with other snakes - spending the last two years in the City of Portsmouth College.

But, during a routine check, a student discovered Ronaldo had given birth to 14 baby snakes.

"We couldn't believe our eyes," animal care technician Amanda McLeod said. "One of the students discovered them during a routine vivarium check.

"At first we thought she must have been mistaken."

Rare phenomenon

Peter Quinlan, reptile specialist at the college, explained that the birth came about due to the rare phenomenon of parthenogenesis.

This is a natural form of asexual reproduction, where embryos develop without fertilisation.

It is known to take place in plants and some animals, but Mr Quinlan said that Ronaldo's pregnancy was only the third to be documented for a captive snake of its species in the world.

He said: "I've been breeding snakes for 50 years and I've never known this happen before.

"Effectively, the babies are clones of their mother although their markings are all slightly different.

"Ronaldo had been looking slightly fatter than usual, like he'd eaten a big meal, but we never thought for a moment that he, or should we say she, was pregnant."

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Mr Quinlan is now tasked with trying to figure out the sex of the baby snakes as he sets up an enclosure for each of them, and tries to find them new homes.