Kenyan Sand Boa

Kenyan Sand Boa


East Africa; Egypt south to Tanzania; southwest Somalia west to Kenya.


Semi-arid desert regions, scrub savannahs, and rock outcroppings.


The Kenyan sand boa is a heavy-looking reptile with a blunt head, small eyes, and a thick, short body. Its belly is white or cream colored and its back has orange or yellow coloration with dark brown splotches. The tail is very short and tapers quickly to a dull point and can’t be coiled. The boa’s eyes and nostrils are placed on the head so that they remain free of debris when the snake’s body is hidden below the sand.


The Kenyan sand boa spends most of its life buried in the sand where it is invisible. It will also hide under stones and in the burrows of other animals.

Because of the desert heat, it is not active during the midday heat, only emerging early in the morning and in the evening to search for food. It seizes its prey and suffocates it between the coils of its body, only relaxing its embrace when the animal stops breathing. It then swallows its victim whole, without chewing, in the same way as other snakes.

This snake is considered a docile species and rarely strikes or bites. In fact when threatened, it buries itself quickly and carefully in soft ground, usually sand.


Kenyan sand boas reach sexual maturity at two to three years of age. These snakes are ovoviviparous (young develop inside egg sacs incubated inside the female’s body). The young hatch live after a gestation period of four months inside the female’s body. She gives birth to five to 12 offspring. The young are completely independent at birth.

Interesting Facts:
  • When food is scarce, sand boas may live over a year without any food at all.
  • Sand boas are some of the smallest boa species on Earth.
  • The Kenyan sand boa typically hunts by lying in wait under sand and ambushing passing prey.
  • The Kenyan sand boa has been known to kill small prey by dragging it under the sand to suffocate it.
  • The male Kenyan sand boa may have to dig the female out of the sand before mating can occur.

All reptiles play an important role in their ecosystem. Many snake species are threatened by habitat destruction and the pet trade.

They are important predators as snakes consume many animals that humans consider pests, including mice, rats and destructive species of insects. They help to control disease and damage to crops by preying on these species.

Did YOU Know?    
The eyes and nostrils of the sand boa are on the top of the head so they can breathe and search the surface for prey while the rest of their body lies hidden beneath the sand.
Kenyan Sand Boa
Class: reptiles
Order: Serpentes
Family: Boidae
Genus: Eryx
Species: colubrinus loveridgei
Length: Female length: 26 to 32 inches; Male length: up to 15 inches
Weight: Females are generally larger than males, weighing up to 2 pounds.
Average Lifespan: up to 15 years
Wild Diet: rodents (naked mole rats, for example), lizards, nestlings
Predators: desert monitor lizards
USFWS Status: Not Listed
CITES Status: Not Listed
Where at the Zoo? Small Animal Building: Desert Zone

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