Ronaldo the snake produces 14 babies after rare ‘virgin birth’

Staff and students at a college have spoken of their shock after their 6ft Brazilian rainbow boa snake called Ronaldo had a rare “virgin birth” and produced 14 babies.

Peter Quinlan, reptile specialist at City of Portsmouth College, said that they had believed the 13-year-old snake was male and added it had not been in contact with any other snakes for at least nine years.

Baby snakes
Ronaldo had a ‘virgin birth’ and 14 snakelets were found during a routine vivarium check (City of Portsmouth College/PA)

He explained that the births were due to the rare phenomenon of parthenogenesis, a natural form of asexual reproduction where embryos develop without fertilisation.

He 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.”

Baby snakes
Reptile specialist Peter Quinlan will now try to identify the sex of the 14 baby snakes at City of Portsmouth College (City of Portsmouth College/PA)

Mr Quinlan said that he had been taking care of Ronaldo, who was declared male by a vet, since it was rehomed by the RSPCA nine years ago.

He added: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for the students to learn about the development of baby snakes.”

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. We couldn’t believe our eyes.”

Mr Quinlan said that he would now try to work out the sex of the baby snakes as he sets up 14 vivaria before finding them all new homes.