East African sandboa

Eryx colubrinus

SUBFAMILY

Erycinae

TAXONOMY

Anguis colubrinus Linnaeus, 1758, "Egypto."

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Boa des escailles rugueuses; German: Aegyptische Sandboa, Kenyan Sandboa.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

This is a heavy-bodied sandboa with a maximum length that approaches 36 in (90 cm). The northern populations are smaller and patterned in tan and yellow, whereas the southern populations are larger and darker with an orange pattern. The undersurface is an immaculate white. The dorsal surface of the tail is armored with thick skin and hooked keeled scales.

DISTRIBUTION

The species is distributed in northeast Africa from central Tanzania north to Egypt and from there west into Niger.

HABITAT

In the northern part of the range this species is more likely found in arid sandy and rocky areas; to the south these sandboas are found in rocky hills and in burrows in soil. They often occupy agricultural fields.

BEHAVIOR

This sandboa rarely strikes forward in defense, but it defends itself with quick backward-directed slashes when its body is touched.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

In captivity the larger animals from southern populations feed on rodents at all ages; the northern animals more often feed on geckos and skinks when they are young.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Most litters contain 12-20 babies, but litters of 32 babies are reported.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Nothing is known about this species in nature.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

This is a very popular snake to keep in captivity; thousands of babies are born in captivity annually. The captive specimens constitute a viable self-sustaining population; very few East African sandboas are taken from the wild.

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