Kenyan Sand Boa

(Eryx colubrinus loveridgei)

Native Range:

The Kenyan Sand Boa (Eryx colubrinus loveridgei) is found in sandy savannah areas of Kenya and adjacent African countries. Most specimens present in US collections have origins tracing back to imports from Kenya in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These snakes are uniquely adapted to a burrowing way of life, having tiny eyes, valvular nostrils to exclude sand and the lower lip is set back to provide a strong chisel-like nose for burrowing. Strongly tuberculate scales on the posterior provide additional traction for pushing through dense soils. Recently, herpetologist have suggested that these small snakes be placed in a group of related forms including Charina, Lichanura, Eryx, and Calabaria. Needless to say, this is a subject of much debate!

Size:

Approximately six to eight inches long at birth, adult females average about two feet in length. Many males are considerable smaller, with sexual maturity being attained at approximately one foot!

Handling:

Kenyan Sand Boas rarely attempt to bite, although they may do so if restrained. Handle gently, without pinching or squeezing, allowing the snake to move through your fingers. Do not allow the snake to dangle unsupported.

Caging:

Any ‘typical’ snake cage can be used, with a ten or fifteen-gallon aquarium being adequate for an adult.

Substrate:

A variety of particle substrates can be used to satisfy the needs of this fossorial specie. Aspen bedding, sand, and Care Fresh are popular with many keepers. Keep the substrate clean and dry at all times. As with all reptiles, do NOT use cedar or pine shavings. These items are toxic to reptiles.

Food:

Most Kenyan Sand Boas will be fed a diet of mice throughout their lives. Hatchlings usually feed readily on newborn ‘pinkie’ mice, and should be fed about every five to seven days. Increase the size of the meal as the snake grows.

Humidity & Water:

Provide clean water in a small dish. Humidity should be kept low, or respiratory problems can result. Due to the variance in cages and home environments, some snakes may experience shedding problems, particularly the tail tip. If this is noticed, provide a small plastic container with lid (cut an access hole in the side) filled with damp sphagnum moss. This will allow the animal to shed properly. Stuck sheds may harden and constrict the blood flow to the tail, causing loss of the tail tip. Many shedding problems can be rectified if noticed quickly simply by placing the snake in a small deli cup overnight with a wet paper towel. Place the cup in a suitable location in the cage.

Heating & Lighting:

Provide a thermal gradient by placing a heat pad under one end of the cage. This should allow the snake to choose from higher temperatures (about 90-95F) at the warm end, and cooler temperatures (about 78-83F) at the cooler end. Provide suitable hiding areas at both warm and cool areas, so the snake can feel secure at any temperature. These snakes seem to prefer enjoy burrowing underneath flat hiding places located directly on top of the substrate, rather than more conventional hiding places. Temperatures below 75F should probably be avoided. No special lighting is required for these nocturnal animals.

Reproduction:

While all Kenyan Sand Boas can be accurately sexed by probing, many can be accurately sexed simply by checking for the presence of tiny 'spurs' on either side of the vent. These 'vestigial legs' are nearly always absent in females. The presence of these spurs, along with the noticeably longer and fatter tail of the males is sure visual method of sexing these snakes. Hatchlings can also be sexed by manually everting the hemipenes (a process known as ‘popping’). Probing or popping should only be performed by an experienced individual, as improper technique may result in severe damage or even death. Most specimens will require a mild cooling period to breed, but some readily reproduce under normal conditions. Like all boas, they are ovoviviparous, producing live young in late summer. Typical litters consist of about three to twelve offspring, although larger litters are recorded.

Color and Pattern Phases:

While the average specimen is an extremely attractive animal, many breeders have selected for the brightest oranges possible, giving rise to some extraordinary specimens indeed. Such specimens are often referred to as 'Flame Race'. An anerythristic form, originating from stocks maintained by Trooper Walsh at the National Zoo is well-known, as is at least one form of amelanism. Enterprising breeders have already produced 'Snow' Kenyans from these two mutations, and more mutations are sure to appear as more and more breeders work with these incredibly popular snakes.

© 2001 VMS Professional Herpetoculture (http://www.vmsherp.com)