Kenyan Sand Boa

Eryx colubrinus

Order: Squamata

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

Small tank/enclosure that is filled with at least 1.5 inches of sand

  • Temperature, Humidity, & Lighting:
    • Temperature:
    • Humidity:
    • Lighting:
  • Substrate:

Diet Requirements

  • In both the wild and captivity, Kenyan sand boas eat rodents. Juvenile boas feed on nestling rodents and lizards.

Veterinary Concerns

Notes on Enrichment & Training


Colony or Breeding Management

Notes species is housed or managed socially or for breeding purposes.

Individual Identification

Dimorphism or practiced ways to individually mark species (such as those in colonies, like giant millipedes).

Programmatic Information


hot water bottle

Temperature Guidelines

  • Brandywine Zoo: During cool weather (under 65°F), supplemental heat is provided with a hot water bottle set to one side of the cooler. Wrap bottle with newspaper for lizards or snakes traveling with the bottle loose, to make cleanups easier in the case of defecation while traveling.



  • Brandywine Zoo: reptiles travel in a Coleman style coolers that have been amended with extra ventilation holes on the lid (with a wood-burning tool). Small and medium sized snakes travel inside an inside-out, knotted pillowcase. Large snakes travel loose in the cooler that is also bungeed shut. For lizards, the cooler is lined with newspaper.
  • lg cooler sm cooler cooler

Tips on Presentation

  • If you have an individual that likes to burrow, place them in a container of sand to allow public to watch it bury itself.

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling

  • Held in the palm of your hand like any other snake.


Potential Messaging

  • Snakes are an important link in the food chain. They provide food for many bird and mammal species that prey on them. The main diet of most snakes is rodents. Therefore, snakes provide a very valuable service – pest control. Most snakes are non-venomous and will avoid humans if they can. Venomous snakes want to use their venom to kill small prey animals or to defend themselves; since humans are too big to be considered prey by most snakes, the best way to avoid a bite is not to make the snake feel threatened. Ask guests to avoid any snakes they may see in the wild and appreciate them from a distance.
  • In general, animals seen at the zoo do not make good pets. Most have specialized dietary, veterinary, housing, and social needs that are difficult or impossible for even dedicated pet owners to meet. Always ensure that your future pet has not been taken from the wild. Captured animals are typically mistreated by profit-motivated traffickers and dealers, resulting in many animal deaths; well-meaning animal lovers may feel like they are rescuing animals by purchasing them but are really perpetuating the cruelty. In addition, many exotic pets are released by their owners when they become too dangerous or demanding, often with devastating effects on local ecosystems. Animals that should never be kept as pets include all bats, primates, and exotic carnivores. Birds, fish, and reptiles have specialized needs, are frequently wild-caught, and damage the local environment if released; guests should be advised to educate themselves and proceed with caution. Domestic dogs and cats are almost always the best option! Many deserving animals are available for adoption at animal shelters.
  • Desert and Dryland species have specific adaptations for the temperature and water availability in their natural habitat and may not be able to adjust to the drying effects of climate change. Hotter conditions promote wildfires. More extreme drought conditions kill plants that hold the soil in place and occasional extreme rain events wash that soil away preventing them from growing back in a process called desertification. Greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change by trapping heat in the atmosphere. Please ask guests to walk, bike, or take public transportation when possible and to reduce their use of fossil fuels when they do drive by buying a fuel economic car, carpooling, combining errands, and keeping vehicles properly tuned up and their tires properly inflated. At home and work, purchase Energy Star appliances, turn off lights when they are not in use, and use heaters and air conditioners sparingly. The principles of reduce, reuse, and recycle will also help by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions involved with the manufacture and disposal of unnecessary goods.

Acquisition Information


Comments from the Rating System

  • Buffalo Zoo: Temperament varies with individual
  • Houston Zoo: Super easy in every way. Great natural history features to interpret. Excellent “gateway” snake for timid guests.
  • Lee Richardson Zoo: The need for sand can make cleaning and removing the animal from the enclosure a little difficult.
  • Maryland Zoo in Baltimore: Easily startled in sand.

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

This species is found in Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sundan, northern Somalia, northern Chad, western Niger, Egypt, and western Libya. It has also been reported to be found from the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen. Preferred habitat is sandy soil or sand in dry, semi-desert scrub savannas and rock outcroppings.

Physical Description

Kenyan sand boas are heavy bodied snakes with a wedge-shaped head, which is used for burrowing. The yellow-white coloring has blotches and saddles of varying shades of brown, red-brown, and mahogany. The scales are smooth and glossy.
Males generally reach up to 2 feet in length, while females can get close to 3 feet.

Life Cycle

Boas are ovoviviparous, which means the young develop within eggs that remain inside the mother until they hatch or are about to hatch. This strategy is similar to viviparity in that the young are provided with a sheltered environment. However, the young are nourished by the egg yolk instead of the mother’s body.

Mating takes place mostly in June and July. Anywhere between 1 and 17 young are produced from September through November. Young are approximately 8 to 10 inches at birth.

Average lifespan is 15 to 20 years.


Kenyan sand boas spend most of their time in shallow burrows with only its head exposed. The eyes and nostrils of the snake are placed so that they are clear of debris when the snake is hidden beneath the sand. Prey is seized when it passes within range and is killed by constriction. During the hotter months, Kenyan sand boas seek refuge under clumps of vegetation, beneath stones, or in mammal burrows.

Threats and Conservation Status

This species is considered vulnerable and is in CITES Appendix II.

Did you know…

  • This is the sand boa species that is most often encountered in captivity in U.S. collections.




Any Documents to attach, species spotlights, etc.

Contributors and Citations

  • The Philadelphia Zoo
  • Houston Zoo, Natural Encounters