Kenyan Sand Boa

STATUSLeast Concern

COMMON NAME (SCIENTIFIC NAME)Eryx colubrinus

DIETSmall mammals, other small animals such as lizards and birds.

RANGENorthern and eastern Africa

HABITATRegions with loose, sandy soil. Occurs in desert margins and vegetated sand dunes

Kenyan Sand Boa

Status: Not Yet Evaluated

 A smaller snake, the Kenyan Sand boa grows between 15-25inches long. This snake has a wedge shaped head with vertical pupils and often has a dark streak of coloring running through the eyes. Ranging from lighter yellow, to orange/brown in color, the sand boa has large and irregularly shaped dark brown patches covering its body. The scales of the anterior end of the snake are strongly keeled (projecting ridge along a flat or curved surface). The belly of this snake is lighter in color than the dorsal side, often a pale yellow or cream color. Juvenile snakes may be seen with lighter color variations that darken with age. The males of this species often are much smaller and more slender than the females. Both genders have vestigial hind legs, known as spurs.

Also called: East African sand boa, or sand boa

Habitat/Range: Found through northern and eastern Africa. Lives in regions with loose, sandy soil. Occurs in desert margins and vegetated sand dunes. Range through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Chad, Niger, Yemen, Tanzania, and Somalia.

Diet in Wild: Generally known to feed on small mammals but also may consume other small animals such as lizards and birds. Can be found actively hunting for nestlings of both mammal and bird species. In rare occasions, the young of this species may also eat insects.

Diet in Zoo: 2 small mice 1x a week on Wednesday

Predators: Desert monitors are the only known predator of the Kenyan sand boa.

 Life Cycle/ Social Structure: The Kenyan sand boa is a primarily nocturnal burrowing species who spends much of the day below the sandy soil of its home range. As an ambush predator, this snake lies in wait below the soil/ sand or in a burrow until prey walks within grabbing distance. Not only does this species of sand boa constrict its prey, but it may also drag prey below the sand to aid in suffocating it. Sometimes the snake may consume food items it has not fully killed yet.

The Kenyan sand boa reaches sexual maturity at 2 to 3 years of age and mates between spring and summer. Sand boas are ovoviviparous; the young develop in egg sacs incubated in the female’s body cavity. After 4 to 5 months of gestation, the female gives birth to anywhere between 4 and 20 live young who generally are between 10 and 20 cm in length.

 Life Span: Generally live to be about 10 in the wild. Into their late teens in captivity.

 Interesting Facts:

  • The Kenyan sand boa has been known to kill small prey by dragging it underneath the sand to suffocate it.
  • Males will dig the females out from underneath the sand before mating can occur.
  • Appear to give live birth – the eggs hatch inside the mother

 

Conservation Message: Little is known about this species and what factors may be affecting its population in its native range. Studies suggest that habitat destruction in Egypt may be affecting the sand boa population in that region. Research has not been done to discover whether these snakes are able to adapt to new habitats and life close to human development.

As the Kenyan sand boas increase in popularity in the pet trade, collection for these purposes is also decreasing wild numbers of the snake. The Kenyan sand boa has recently become the most popular sand boa to be kept in the US as a pet. Luckily, large numbers are being bred now in captivity and this should reduce stress on the wild populations.

What You Can Do: Research any pet before purchasing. Buying from a source that takes animals out of wild habits can decrease the number of Kenyan sand boas in their native range, but also land you with a pet that is more difficult to handle.

Bibliography
http://www.iucnredlist.org/
http://www.arkive.org/
http://www.anapsid.org/
http://www.rosamondgiffordzoo.org/