The Kenyan Sand Boa, also known as the Egyptian sand boa, or simply as a sand boa, makes an excellent pet and is quite popular all over the world, especially in the United States. As a boa, this snake species is nonvenomous. They are heavy short and come in several different morphs.
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Kenyan Sand Boa Facts and Information
- Experience Level: Beginner
- Family: Boidae
- Scientific Name: Gongylophis colubrinus (Eryx colubrinus)
- Risk Factor: Nonvenomous, constrictor
- Average Adult Size: 2 – 3 feet (60 cm – 91 cm)
- Lifespan: 15 – 20 years
- Clutch Size: 10 to 20 offspring
- Gestation Period: 100 – 120 days
- Food: Frozen pinky mice
- Average Temperature: 95°H/75°L
- Humidity: 40 – 60%
- UVB Lighting: optional
- Average Price Range: $50 – $75
- Conservation Status: No special status
The scientific name of the Kenyan sand boa is Gongylophis colubrinus. This species belongs to the family Boidae which consists of all other boas. In all, there are 49 snake species that belongs to the family Boidae.
The Kenyan sand boa also belongs to the genus Gongylophis. This genus consists of 3 species namely the Kenyan sand boa, the rough-scaled sand boa (which is native to India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan) and the Saharan sand boa (which is mostly native to West Africa).
The genus Gongylophis used to be a subset of the genus called Eryx. As such, many still refer to the Kenyan sand boa as Eryx colubrinus.
They are endemic North Eastern Africa in places such as Somalia, Egypt, and Ethiopia. They can also be found in Sudan, Northern Tanzania, and Kenya.
As with many other boas, the sand boa is stout and short. Including the tail, adult specimens rarely grow over 3 feet (9 meters). Males hardly grow pass 20 inches in length. This species can weigh up to 2 pounds.
They are heavily built and have short tails, small eyes, and small heads. There are many several morphs of this snake. The color of this snake is usually orange or yellow with brown spots. The underside of this snake is cream or white in color.
Kenyan Sand Boa Habitat
As per their name, sand boas spend most of their time buried in sand. If there is no sand around, they will hide under stones or in burrows created by other animals.
This way, they can hide from predators, stalk prey and keep their body temperature even. They can be found in rock outcroppings, scrub savannahs and semi-arid desert regions.
This boa does not need as much space as other larger snakes. A 28-gallon terrarium will do for adult snakes. Babies and juveniles can be housed in 10-gallon tanks. As with any growing animal, younglings will eventually outgrow their small tank.
Their enclosures need to be escape proof. At the same time, their enclosures need to be well ventilated. The tank also needs to be large enough for the snake to stretch. You can use either a plastic tub or a glass terrarium. With a tub, you must drill air holes.
With glass terrariums, you need to use air screen covers. Screen covers such as the Zilla Fresh Air Screen Cover ensures air circulation within the terrarium is at an optimal level. You can also use locking screen clips such as the Zilla Screen Clips to keep the lid in place while still ensuring enough air enters the tank.
The enclosure needs to be cleaned every 4 to 6 months. Place the snake in another container, and remove all bedding, decorative materials, and bowls. Thoroughly clean the enclosure using a 10% bleach solution.
Let the solution sit on the surfaces of the enclosure for 10 minutes. After cleaning and thoroughly rinsing the tank, allow it to dry for several hours.
When it is well dried, you can return the snake along with the bedding, water bowl, and decorative materials to the enclosure. Avoid cleaning products such as Pinesol as it contains ingredients that are toxic to reptiles.
Aspen snake bedding, coconut mulch, play sand or potting soil can both be used as substrate materials for the enclosure. The substrate needs to be deep enough for the snake to burrow underground. Unacceptable bedding materials include cedar shaving, corncob bedding, rocks and gravel. The best bedding material is aspen.
You should avoid placing heavy rocks in the enclosure, as the snake will try to burrow under it and get hurt. Sparse decoration is best. If you must decorate the habitat, a few flat wood, and artificial plants would do.
A heat mat such as the iPower Reptile Heat Pad and an overhead incandescent lamp can be used to achieve the right temperature for the enclosure. It is advisable to get a thermostat controller such as the INKBIRD ITC-308 Thermostat Controller for the heat mat.
For more check out our review of the best reptile thermostats.
The part of the cage under the overhead lamp needs to be about 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius) while the rest of the enclosure needs to be about 80 degrees. During the night, the temperature should be around 75 degrees (24 degrees Celsius). It is important to provide the boa with a day and night cycle. An LED light can be used to light the habitat 12 hours every day.
A ceramic bowl should be used to provide water for the Kenyan sand boa. Plastic bowls are easily tipped over.
The Kenyan sand boa does not need UVB lighting. However, several pet keepers feel a UVA/UVB lighting makes snakes more active. Since a UVB light is optional, getting one depends on the pet keeper.
Feeding the Kenyan Sand Boa
In the wild, they hunt during the morning and in the evening. As with other boas, they asphyxiate their prey before swallowing them whole. They prefer to prey on rodents, lizards, and nestlings.
You can feed them mice. Babies will usually not accept pre-killed pink mice. As such, you have to feed them tiny live mice. As the mouse can harm the newborn snake, you mustn’t leave mice unattended with the snake.
Once the young boa gets used to having mice as a source of food, you can feed them pre-killed frozen mice. This is better as a frozen mouse can’t harm the snake and are free of worms, mite, and other infestations that can be passed on to the snake.
Adults can be fed thawed mice. The mice must be no bigger than the widest part of the snake. After feeding, the meal should result in a small bump in the snake’s body. Small boas eat small mice, and bigger boas eat bigger mice. Although they will accept live prey, thawed prey is better.
Feed a female Kenyan sand boa once a week. Males eat once every 10 to 14 days (that’s twice every two weeks). The Kenyan Sand Boa will only feed when it needs to. If you provide more food than it needs, the boa won’t feed on the extra mice provided. As such, the boa can go months without eating.
Boas, as with other snakes, don’t eat when shedding so you shouldn’t feed it during this period. In addition, Kenyan boas may refuse to eat during winter. They may refuse to feed for as long as two months. This is normal.
When feeding them, always use tongs or tweezers. This will prevent them from accidentally biting your fingers. Wiggling the meal can stimulate the snake into attacking the mouse. Always have clean water available.
Kenyan Sand Boa’s Temperament
Sand boas are gentle and docile creatures. A few may be feisty; however, this is rare. When they get scared, they usually attempt to flee. When feeding them, ensure to use tweezers to deliver food their food, as they tend to attack their meals.
Using tweezers or tongs will ensure they don’t bite you. When picking them up, do so with both hands and pick them up by their middle. Don’t pick them by the front as they may think you’re food.
After feeding them, don’t pick them up until after 24 hours as doing so is discomforts them. Similarly, don’t pick them up when they are shedding.
Kenyan Sand Boa’s Lifespan
In captivity, these snakes usually grow up to about 15 years. However, some breeders claim to have sand boas that are over 30 years old. With good care, these snakes can live well into their late teens.
Breeding Kenyan Sand Boas
Breeding sand boas is not difficult. If adult male boas and adult female boas are together in the same enclosure, they breed readily during the mating season which is November to April in the U.S. As with other boas, the Kenyan sand boa delivers live birth.
Younglings measure about 8 to 10 inches in length at birth. A gravid female will deliver 10 to 20 babies annually. The gravid females need access to a nesting box with sphagnum moss or other soft moss.
At birth, the younglings are independent and don’t need any help from other boas to survive and feed.
Several morphs of this species exist including the Albino Kenyan sand boas, Anerythristic Kenyan sand boas, Hypomelanistic Kenyan sand boas, Snow Kenyan sand boas, Splash Kenyan sand boa, Stripe Kenyan sand and the Nuclear Kenyan sand boas.
The Kenyan sand boa hardly ever falls sick. If the housing is clean and the snake is well fed, the snake can go its whole life without illness. Symptoms of bad health include recurrent vomiting, difficulty breathing, and excessive mucus. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should contact your herp veterinarian.
The enclosure’s substrate needs to be replaced every few weeks. This ensures that the bedding is always clean. Fecal matter and small lumps of urates have to be removed as soon as possible. In the same way, if you see any sign of mold, the substrate needs to be replaced.
Pricing and Availability
These snakes are readily available as they are easy to breed. They can be found in most pet shops that sell snakes. They cost from $10 to $70. However, different morphs of the species are more expensive.
For instance, albino and anerythristic sand boas cost between $75 and $300. The rarer the morph, the more expensive the snake will be.
The Kenyan sand boa is preyed on by raptors such as hawks, kites and others that are native to their habitat. Another prominent predator of the sand boa is the desert monitor lizard. When threatened, the sand boa is quick to flee underground.
The Kenyan sand boa is not endangered. The species has no special status on the IUCN red list nor does the species have any special status anywhere else. Regardless of this, habitat destruction and the pet trade is detrimental to this species’ wild populations. As such, it is imperative to acquire captive bred Kenyan sand boas only.
The species play an important ecological role to humans as they hunt, and feed on many pests that damage crops, and spread diseases. Such pests include rats, mice and several species of insects.
Because of its docile nature, ease of care and small size, the Kenyan sand boa is a popular pet choice for all snake enthusiasts. This constrictor is easy to care for and don’t mind being handled frequently.
As with all long-lived pets, they require dedication and lifelong commitment. If you have any questions, advice or comments on this species, kindly let us know below.