|:: The Snake
Beneath Your Feet.
:: SAND BOA's... Eryx sp.
A much-neglected section of the snake family are the burrowing
ones. I keep the Sand Boas by preference but there are also
burrowers in the Python groups. This type of snake has adapted
its body form to go digging through the loose particles of
sandy soil that make up the preferred hunting grounds. The
largest Boa group of this type is the Genus Eryx. This includes
Kenyan Sand, Javalin Sand, Brown Sand, Rough-Scaled Sand, Milliaris
and Tartar Sand Boas. Most of these are available if not common
in the U.K. This family of snakes are small, usually not more
than 60cm in captivity, but well built and robust. With a placid
nature, when kept well fed, the nocturnal life style can be
adjusted to include early morning and early evening activities.
A small vivarium is required with a generous depth of loose
large grained dry reptile sand, to allow full submersion when
burrowing. A hide is required; this can be a small Glass or
Perspex sheet laid flat on the substrate (you can then watch
from above), also a small water bowl for drinking (kept fresh).
When sloughing time is near the addition of a small cricket
box, without the lid, filled with moist moss is most welcome.
Feeding is a surprising time as they
have, for their size, a voracious appetite, being true constrictors
they strike (usually
sideways missing more often than hitting) and restrain the
food item with a selection of body coils. They have a liking
for one item of food locked in their coils while striking and
consuming a second. The food size ranges from small “Pinkie” mice
just after their first slough, to large “Fluffs” when
adults. My big female Kenyan Sand Boa will consume 6 “Fluffs” in
one sitting every week. She has just given me 4 babies (one
was dead a birth) and 3 are feeding well. They are live bearers
not egg layers and can have up to 30 young (how do they carry
that many?). The females are much larger than the males up
to 3 times the bulk, and are usually kept in small colonies
with one male and several females all year round. Heat reduction
is not normally required to stimulate breeding but the heat
and food intake must be maintained until birth. The Sand Boas
colours are very varied, with more colour morphs being introduced
in the most common Kenyans (black/white, tangerine/yellow,
black/orange, black/dark red and brown/orange).
I also have 3 Javelin Sand Boas (2
female 1 male) these are on the CITES lists and are under
threat of extinction in their
native homeland. This sand snake is about the same size as
the Kenyan but with a much more camouflage colouring of browns,
blacks, light tan and fawns. The nature of this snake is aggressive
and very ill tempered, NOT a snake for children. Like the rest
of the burrowing snakes they are “ambush” specialists,
their form allowing just the top of their head and the eyes
(on the upper portion of the head) to be almost invisible above
the dusty ground. There they wait for the unsuspecting rodent,
lizard, worm or large insect to come with in strike range.
The small eyes, although not efficient in daylight having vertically
elliptical pupils, are most effective in poor light levels,
their usual active period and daylight hours safe below the
ground. This also allows extra feeding time during the day
for worms, mouse nests and other subterranean food sources.
I would like to see more of these enchanting and interesting
little snakes being kept by young reptile enthusiasts, especially
the Kenyan Sand Boas. They are a very good and safe first snake
that will introduce feeding, cleaning and handling techniques
with reduced risk to owner and snake. Their small scale and
ease of handling together with their robustness is a good combination.
The low cost housing, maintenance and running costs offset
the slightly higher initial cost of the snake. As you may have
guessed I like these hardy sand shovelers and their beavering
about shoving every thing out of their way is a very comical
sight to sit and watch.
By Barry Thomas.