Kenyan Sand Boa
Erycinae Eryx Gongylophis
Other species covered by this caresheet: (Egyptian Sand Boa, Rough-scaled Sand Boa, West African Sand Boa…)
The East African Sand Boas (Kenyan and Egyptian Boas) are the sand boas most commonly kept as pets, and most readily availible to the pet trade. They are native to Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt , Ethiopia, Sudan and parts of Somalia, Chad and Lybia. They are a small, terrestrial species of old world boa, and are suitable for beginners to keeping snakes, even making a perfect “first boa”. They are extremely hardy and thrive in captivity. They are CITES listed so paperwork proving origin is required, and international trade is restricted. There are however breeders in the USA and EU so obtaining captive bred specimens is not difficult.
Growth and longevity
The Kenyan and Egyptian sand boas are quite small, with adult males rarely exceeding 18 inches in length, while large females can grow to around 30 inches. They do particularly well in captivity and can live for 20 years or more. Primarily nocturnal, they spend much of their time burried in the substrate so they are no display animal, but their beautiful markings and good nature (once they are used to being handled) more than makes up for this.
Small or fuzzy mice of a suitable size should be offered every 5 – 7 days for adults. Neonates will require feeding twice weekly, and will normally start on small pinkies, which may will to be cut in two until the snakes are large enough to take whole ones. They will normally take defrosted rodents without problems but may need tempting by wiggling the prey with forceps to get them to strike. To prevent impaction of substrate in the gut it’s best to feed these boas in a separate feeding tub, rather than in the vivarium. If you do choose to feed in the vivarium, place the prey item on a large flat rock away from the sand, or on a sheet of newspaper which can be removed after feeding.
Due to their size only modest housing is required. A 24″ by 16″ vivarium or plastic “critter box” is adequate for housing a single adult. They are true escape artists so care should always be taken to ensure that doors and lids are secure. A deep substrate or around 3 inches should be provided as these snakes like to burrow. A fine, non-dusty sand such as play sand is ideal. The humidity should stay fairly low, as they come from an arid climate, so ensure good ventilation and only provide a small water dish. A temperature gradient from around 32 – 35C in the basking area, down to around 25C at the low end should be maintained during the day. These snakes are averse to bright lights so an infrared or ceramic bulb is ideal. Undertank heating can also be used, but must be fitted with a carefully calibrated thermostat.
Handling your Kenyan Sand Boa
These boas are often quite docile and tolerant to handling once used to human contact, but are often anything but docile when young. Young snakes are often quite snappy but they do calm down well, and their small mouths and teeth are of no danger to humans. In fact, these boas are one of the few boa species suitable for children to own/handle and make an excellent first snake, or first boa for anyone without the space required to accomodate a boa constrictor.
Breeding, and health issues.
The Sand boas can be bred in captivity, and captive bred specimens are readily availble. They are not easy to sex when young but an experienced keeper of vet should be able to accurantely sex by probing. Adults can be sexed more readily based on size. They should be kept individually, only pairing them for a short mating period of 1 – 2 weeks in early summer. They are live bearers and will give birth to 8 – 20 young. Breeding and health issues are beyond the scope of this caresheet. Please check the other sections of this web site.