Sand boas belong to a group of small boids that are mostly Asian, where some species are native to the African continent, and one species is present in Europe.
As for the Kenyan Sand Boa, it has the scientific name Eryx colubrinus and is from the species of the snake family Boidae. These are commonly known as the East African sand boa. This nomenclature is mainly due to the region from which they originate. However, hobbyists usually refer to them as the Kenyan Sand Boa.
They are usually found with different color morphs and are docile by nature. In addition to their passive personality, they have a manageable size.
As for the query: Are Kenyan Sand Boas Dangerous? Though most of them are well behaved, occasionally they tend to be quite jumpy. However, they hardly bite; instead, they spasm, jerk, or generally try to escape.
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Where are Kenyan Sand Boas Found in The Wild?
As the name indicates, Kenyan sand boas come from the coastal regions of Kenya, Africa. There are also found in Sudan, western Libya, Tanzania, Egypt, Chad, Yemen, northern Somalia, Niger, and Ethiopia.
Due to their extensive geographical location, few keepers still refer to them as East African Sand boa. While in the wild, they mostly thrive in scrub savannas, rock outcroppings, and semi-arid desert regions.
The Kenyan Sand Boas do not have any subspecies that are currently identified by the scientists. Yet some authorities recognize the two subspecies as Eryx colubrinus loveridgei and Eryx colubrinus colubrinus. However, this is not confirmed as these species are mono-typic with certain geographic variations.
Also, these species have a close association with the rubber boa, Charina bottae, and the rosy boa scientifically named Lichanura trivirgata that are generally present in the US. All three species together form a group known as the erycine boas.
As for the genus name, it’s derived from the Latin world called colubrinus, which means – ‘having snake-like qualities.’ Loveridgei, the sub-specific name of this species, was in honor of the British herpetologist named Arthur Loveridge.
Kenyan Sand Boa Physical Characteristics
You might be thinking this boa is a huge snake. However, this reptile has a chubby and small body when compared with the rest of the species.
They have small eyes on top of their blunt head, which keeps it away from any debris as they hide below the sand.
Moreover, the presence of the wedged snouts also keeps the sand away from entering into their mouth as they borrow deep. All these allow them to search for prey as their body remains hidden under the sand.
This heavy-looking reptile has a cream or white belly and yellow or orange shade with dark chocolate brown to black splotches on their back. Due to this coloration, the boas can camouflage well with their natural environment. Also, it helps them to remain well hidden from there predators like the desert monitor lizard.
As for their tail, they can’t coil it since it’s short and tapers down to a dull point. Breeders have come up with numerous color morphs for these boas, which gives you a wide array of options. It includes Paradox, Albino, Snow White, Anerythristic, Striped, and Tiger.
Kenyan sand boas thrive well in the arid regions and seek out for the humid microclimates. Due to the extreme heat in the desert, these creatures remain inactive during the midday heat.
They emerge into the open only during the early hours of the morning and during the evening to hunt for food.
Most of its life is spent by burrowing itself under the sand where they remain invisible. They also tend to hide in burrows made by other animals and under stones.
Kenyan Sand Boa Size
Their average weight lies between 2 – 4 ounces, and they have an average length ranging from 2 – 3 feet. The maximum length of a male boa will reach between 15 and 18 inches with a weight of around 70 – 100 grams.
At times, a well-seasoned and older male may go up to 24 inches. As for the females, they generally grow up to a length of around 24 to 36 inches, with 28 inches being the typical length.
The females weigh about 400 to 900 grams. The females have a heavier build when compared with the male species.
Kenyan Sand Boa Lifespan
These creatures tend to live for quite a long period as they have an average lifespan of around 15 – 30 years.
That’s a long time! So, if you are considering one as a pet, be sure to plan for the long term. These snakes can live around a 1/3rd of your entire life.
Kenyan Sand Boa Diet
These small-sized and non-venomous creatures hunt for prey like birds, nestling mammals, and lizards. However, it survives mainly by consuming lizards and small rodents.
A small mouse is more than enough to satiate an average small sized boa. They catch their prey by lying nearly buried under the sand or dirt and waits patiently till any potential prey passes by to ambush them. They also tend to hunt down the nest of rodents to feed on their young ones.
Instead of coiling around the prey to suffocate it like the other constrictors, these creatures pull the prey below the ground and suffocate them. It relaxes the pulling force on the prey only when it stops breathing.
After this, it swallows the animal as a whole without even chewing, which is similar to the trait exhibited by the rest of the snake species. Although it is not common, at times, the boa hatchlings feed on insects.
They are mostly active during the nighttime and occasional prowl around, even during noon. As for water consumption, snakes usually get the moisture content from the food that they consume.
Kenyan Sand Boa Reproduction
Snakes are capable of producing a vast number of babies in each litter. While in the wild, most of the tiny hatchlings become prey to the predators. Hence to maintain the species, more babies are usually produced, which enhances the chance of survival to adulthood.
The average size of the litter ranges from 10 to 20. Some are capable of producing around 30 babies at one time. Reports claim the highest record to be about 32 in total.
Young adults who give birth for the first time tend to produce fewer progenies. The very first litter of a snake will have only around 5 to 12 babies. However, the experienced and older females deliver approximately 18 to 20 hatchlings in each season.
Why Do Kenyan Sand Boa Release Slugs?
Slugs are otherwise known as unfertilized eggs. In these species, they appear in ovoid or round shapes with yellow to orange shades. It is usual for these boas to pass some slugs while giving birth to a litter of babies. This is because when the mature female ovulates, all the eggs will not be fertilized.
Moreover, these boas consume the slugs right after passing it out. This behavior is normal as the female adult is aware that these slugs will not develop in the future. Hence, she eats them to regain all the nutrients that she has lost while giving birth.
At times, this species may produce a clutch of slugs for the entire litter, where even one healthy baby is not present. This occurs when the female ovulates, but the eggs produced do not come into contact with the sperm. In case this takes place, it’s mainly because the male boa was not mature enough for breeding. Once both the male and the female grow more mature, they are likely to produce a healthy litter of babies.
Kenyan Sand Boa Genetics
The exciting part of breeding these species is producing the morphs. The morph snake looks completely different from the standard wild species. This is because it will have different patterns, different shades, or even both.
As for these boas, the morphs are mainly determined by their DNA since they’re produced by a genetic mutation. By finding the genes of the Kenyan sand boas, one can predict the look of their progenies. Few morphs are heterozygous or dominant in their traits. That is, only one mutated allele copy is essential for the offspring to display the morph.
The homozygous or recessive morphs become visible only when the young ones have 2 copies of the mutated allele. Both parents must carry the trait to produce progenies that display similar morphs.
When the boa carries a recessive gene without displaying it, that trait becomes heterozygous.
To discover what morph a particular boa might produce, you will have to find out the genes that it carries. If not, the progenies might surprise you. Let’s have a look at the different morphs with their genetics and appearance.
Albino Kenyan Sand Boa Morph: Recessive with two copies of the albino gene. They have yellowish to orange shade markings on their pinkish-white body.
Anerythristic Kenyan Sand Boa Morph: Recessive with two copies of the anerythristic gene. On their White body, you will find black color markings.
Hypomelanistic: Recessive with two copies of the hypomelanistic gene. It has a cream body with Light brown shaded markings.
Splash: Recessive with two copies of the splash gene. They come with a reduced pattern, which is typically near the tail end.
Stripe: Dominant with one copy of the stripe gene. The top of the body has a vertical stripe running along, creating a pattern look.
Ghost: Double Recessive with two copies each of the hypomelanistic and anerythristic genes. Their white body has light grey markings.
Albino Paradox: Recessive with two copies of the albino paradox gene. Though they have an Albino appearance, it comes with small black spots that are randomly scattered.
Snow: Double Recessive with two copies each of the anerythristic and albino genes. On their pinkish-white body, you will find white markings.
You can also produce a designer morph with multiple traits by combining various genes. For instance, if you wish to create a snow stripe species, you need two copies each of the anerythristic and albino genes along with one stripe gene copy.
Conservation Of The Kenyan Sand Boa
Every reptile plays a vital role as part of the ecosystem. Recently, most of the snake species are being frequently threatened due to the increase in the pet trade and the destruction of their habitat.
Though their population remains stable in the wind, excessive hunting down of these wild boas for trading in the pet market might lead to ‘Near threatened’ status. Moreover, the conservation status of the species is not yet assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and also not stated in CITES Appendix II.
Also, very little information is available about their native range and the negative aspects that affect their population. During the 1970s, few of these species were directly imported from Kenya.
From the 1980s until the start of 1995, many of these specimens were primarily imported from the northern region of Tanzania to the United States. However, in 1995 Tanzania put an end to the export of the Kenyan sand boas. Since then, the wild-caught boas are no longer available on an extensive range.
Fortunately, they are now breeding in captivity in huge numbers, thereby reducing the near threat of extinction of this wild species.
They are mainly considered as significant predators that help in balancing the ecosystem.
This is because they feed on most creatures that humans considered pests, which include rats, mice, and destructive insects. This, in turn, assists in controlling the spread of diseases and the damage done to crops by these pests.
Kenyan Sand Boa Care
As these snakes do not require much space for housing, you will find that the hatchling needs only a 10-gallon tank. As for the adult reptiles, you may have to upgrade the tank to a size of 20 gallons.
Whether you are using a wooden, plastic, or glass terrarium, see to it that it comes with a secure lid. Since snakes have a natural curiosity, most of the time, they tend to escape from their enclosure.
These boas are capable of pushing the lid away from a loose plastic terrarium or slowly slither away from an unsecured screen lid. Make sure to place clamps or locks to keep the lids in place.
Since they like to dig and burrow, it’s a must to include a snug in their enclosure to give them a secure feeling.
The best substrate for this creature is aspen chips. You can also use play sand, coconut mulch, and other substrates that help in burrowing. By adding a few inches of this substrate into their cage, they can burrow quickly. Moreover, as it remains dry, it won’t affect the little creature’s well-being.
Avoid using carpet, paper towels, and newspapers as it hinders them from digging. The Forest floor type is also not advisable since it can hold a lot of moisture.
Make sure that their enclosure remains dry at all times and avoid using materials that contain unnatural toxins and extra scents that may irritate their skin. Also, get rid of dusty materials as it results in respiratory infections once inhaled.
Do you wish to maintain an attractive and natural environment inside the tank? If so, you can use cork bark and another cage décor that are light in weight and durable. Avoid using heavy objects and rocks that can injure the boa if it accidentally falls on them. This is because these burrowing creatures are more inclined towards rearranging the décor.
In the wild, these reptiles reside in a warmer environment. It indicates that you have to keep their enclosure at higher temperatures. At times they require lower temperatures that are similar to the cooler nights in the forest. For this, you will have to maintain a warm end and a cool end within their cage.
You need to maintain the warmer end at the temperature ranging from 89 – 94°F and around 78°F at the cooler end. As for the nighttime temperature, it is advisable to keep it above 70°F.
To keep the enclosure warm, you can place a heating pad below the tank. Affixing heat tapes to the sides also provide similar results. For regulating and keeping track of the temperature inside, make use of two thermometers.
Place one on the warm end and other on the cooler side of the enclosure. Remember to check the temperatures daily to keep the boa from facing any discomfort. If you are residing in the colder regions, remember to include extra heat sources like heat lamps.
Kenyan Sand Boas don’t require any specific lighting. But, they do like to be warm. They are from Africa near the equator, after all.
These nocturnal creatures are more active during the nighttime. Usually, they hunt during the night and prefer to sleep in their burrows during the daytime.
Hence, it’s essential to maintain both night time and day time in their tanks. To attain this, you can place their enclosure in a well-lit area. However, avoid placing the cage directly in front of the window as it can impact the temperature variation. You can also use artificial lighting like basking lamps if you lack natural light.
Since these reptiles originate from the dry regions of Africa, maintaining humility within their enclosure is quite easy. That is when the tank is dry, they remain quite happy. Make sure that the humidity level inside the tank does not go beyond 30 to 40%.
This is because when the humidity of the environment increases, it can cause respiratory illness in these boas. To maintain the humidity levels, attach a hygrometer within their enclosure.
Do you find that the tank has a higher humidity content within?
If so, go ahead and check if the substrate is not too wet—wet substrate results in enhanced humidity levels. You can also opt for a smaller bowl of the water source as too much water inside the tank may hike its humidity.
Having a sound ventilation system is also a must for these creatures. With the help of air holes and screen lids, you can maintain the temperature levels and retain the humidity at lower levels.
Kenyan Sand Boa Diet
In their natural environment, these small-sized creatures hunt for prey like birds, nestling mammals, and lizards. While in captivity, they feed on small rodents. You can also feed them with frozen rodents after thawing it. You don’t have to worry about these reptiles growing big enough to consume large mice or rats.
Note the size of your pet when you feed them. Do not feed them with a rodent that is beyond the width of the broadest section of their body. A small mouse is more than enough to satiate an average small sized boa. Feed the boas once a week with these mice.
Instead of coiling around the prey to suffocate it like the other constrictors, these creatures pull the prey below the ground and suffocate them. Now you might think they prefer to live meals over frozen prey. However, it can be quite hazardous to feed live mice to your snake, who has been captive for long.
This is because, in an attempt to defend themselves, the mice may bite the boa. In their natural environment, they will be able to get away in such cases. Whereas in captivity, since they can’t escape easily, these bites can result in infections.
Do you find that your pet is reluctant to consume a dead mouse? If so, you will have to trigger their hunting response. With the help of a pair of tongs, try wiggling the rodent around the tank and near the head of the reptile.
It will trigger the hunting instinct of the boa due to the moving meal, and they may grab it. Remember not to jerk away when the boa strikes. Also, avoid pulling the mouse out from its mouth as they may lose their teeth.
You don’t have to feed these creatures daily. However, the young ones may require more feeding than mature ones. You will have to feed the hatchlings once every 4 to 5 days.
As for the adult male species, feed them once every 10 to 14 days.
When it comes to the mature female species, you don’t have to feed them more than once every week.
Avoid giving them any food while they are shedding. This is because normally, they tend to avoid eating during this time frame. The best time to feed your pet is right before bedtime. This is because it’ll give them sufficient time to digest their food throughout the night.
Snakes usually get them moisture content from the food that they consume. Hence, if you find that your boa does not drink much water, there’s nothing to worry about.
Also, it does not mean that they do not require any water. You will find that snakes have the habit of soaking themselves in any water source. For this, you can place a dish where they can fit the whole body inside.
Due to their small size, the Kenyan sand boas can quickly soak themselves in their water bowls. However, to avoid the drinking water from becoming dirty, it’s advisable to replace the water on a daily basis.
Make sure to fill the bowls with fresh drinking water. Also, when the boa soils the water, remember to replace it as quickly as possible.
Avoid using tap water as it is not suitable for the well-being of the reptile. Also, it’s not advisable to use distilled water since it lacks the presence of minerals.
Kenyan Sand Boa Handling
As these snakes move quite slowly and are not extremely active, they are quite easier to handle. Since they have a greater tendency to keep borrowing, as you handle them, they may try to hide under your collar, inside your pockets or under your sleeves.
Before you handle these beauties, make sure to give it some time to digestion if it is right after their feeding. Handling them right after a meal can stress them out and result in regurgitation of the food ingested. The best rule for handling them again is to wait for one day.
Are Kenyan Sand Boas Dangerous?
No, this is not a dangerous species of snake.
Sometimes while handling, the snakes may bite as part of the feeding response. This is because they mistake the keepers’ hands as food. You can prevent this from occurring again using a confident and gentle method.
While handling, avoid reaching out from above towards the front third portion of their body. This is because it can startle them or trigger a feeding impulse, which puts them in a defensive mode. Instead, while you reach out to take them from their tank, remember to lift them from below the middle section of their body.
Doing this will enable your pet to understand that your hand is not something that they can feed on. Not interested in using your hands? If so, you can opt for using a small snake hook.
While you are handling these guys, make sure to give sufficient support throughout their bodies. Since these creatures are not capable of climbing, you will have to keep them from falling off accidentally. It is because these accidents can cause stress and injuries to their body.
Socializing and handling tips
Here are some pointers that you can follow as you handle these slithery pets.
– Give them a few days to settle in comfortably in their new enclosures before handling them.
– Place the enclosure in an area where humans come and go frequently. This will help these creatures to get used to your smell and sound.
– Though these boas do not usually bite, it’s advisable to wear gloves when you handle them for the first time.
– As you handle them, make sure to support their body using both your hands. Also, allow it to move around freely and explore your hands.
– By lifting these guys from the midsection will help them to understand the difference between mealtime and playtime.
Kenyan Sand Boa Breeding
For breeding these boas, you have to do a lot of planning and research as it’s a complicated procedure. You won’t get a positive outcome by merely putting two adult’s species together.
Similar to the other reptile species, these boas are also ovoviviparous and do not lay any eggs. That is, they give birth to young ones that are carefully encased in membranous sacs. Mating usually takes place during the summer and spring season, and they attain sexual maturity between 2 – 3 years of age.
For breeding during the winter season, you will have to lower the temperature. It helps them to brumate and make them prepared for reproduction during the spring.
Once the temperature rises, introduce the mature male to the adult female. When the female becomes gravid, remove the male from the tank. After 4-5 months of gestation, the females will give birth.
Once they give birth, make sure that you remove the babies from the enclosure. After that, remember to feed these newborn hatchlings with meals quite often. These young ones will be around 8 – 10 inches long and are independent right from birth.
Since they are live bearing, they don’t require an incubator or monitoring the eggs while developing. However, they still need lots of care to make sure that the breeding process goes about smoothly. Also, at times, the male species will have to dig the female boas out from the sand before the mating process can take place.
Some keepers may find the burrowing nature of the Kenyan sand boas not rewarding.
However, if you remain patient, their fascinating behaviors will keep you entertained as they make regular appearances. On meeting their basic requirements, they will portray a straightforward trait.
Get your Kenyan sand boa by visiting your local reptile breeders or pet outlets. You can also buy them online or at local pet stores. Make sure that the breeder is well known for taking proper care of these reptiles. You can also get them from the online reptile stores.