Rainbow Boa

Epicrates cenchria

Order: Squamata

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

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

Diet Requirements

  • Like all other constrictors, rainbow boas suffocate their prey using constriction and do not have venom. In the wild, rainbow boas feed on rodents, birds, and occasionally other small reptiles or even fish. In captivity, boas are fed mice, rats and hamsters.

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

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling


Potential Messaging

  • One of the best ways for people to help the rainforest is to reduce their use of paper. Many rainforest trees are felled each year for paper that ends up in countries all over the world. Much of the tropical paper pulp products that end up in the United States come from South America, particularly the Amazon Rainforest. Please ask guests to go paperless in the office whenever possible, to print on both sides, to recycle any paper or cardboard they do use, and to purchase products made from recycled paper. At home, they can substitute re-usable cloth towels for disposable paper towels and cleaning wipes and purchase toilet paper made from recycled material rather than super-plush toilet paper which is made from old-growth forests. http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/rainforest-threats/http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/26/science/earth/26charmin.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  • 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. http://www.capesnakeconservation.com/snake-conservation-whats-the-point/http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/rattlesnake_roundups/facts/rattlesnake_roundups.html
  • 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. Capture of wild animals for the pet trade has significantly damaged the survival prospects of species such as sloths, tamanduas, and many parrots. 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. http://www.philadelphiazoo.org/Save-Wildlife/Images/PetWalletBro2012.aspxhttp://pin.primate.wisc.edu/aboutp/pets/index.html

Acquisition Information


Comments from the Rating System

  • Maryland Zoo in Baltimore: Can be aggressive.

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

Northern South America – Brazil, Venezuela, Guyana, and Suriname

Physical Description

Brazilian rainbow boas are one of nearly a dozen subspecies of rainbow boas. They are medium-bodied snakes, growing to be five to seven feet long. Their body color varies from mahogany brown to deep red to vibrant orange. Rainbow boas have three dark parallel lines on the top of their heads which merge into a dark ringed pattern that runs the length of their back. Dark spots run along their sides, and their bellies are light cream in color. They are named for their iridescence on their scales, which is especially noticeable in the sunlight after shedding. Vestigial hind limbs are present in the form of spurs on each side of the anal vent. Although snakes have evolved to move without legs, these remnant limbs are more prominent in males than females and are used during mating.

Life Cycle

Most reptiles, including snakes, hatch from eggs. However, boas are ovoviviparous. This means that the young develop in eggs that are retained inside the female’s body. These eggs do not have hard or leathery shells as they would if they were laid outside the body. Instead, neonates form inside egg sacs, gaining nutrients from the yolk, which is fully absorbed before birth. They are born alive and shed their skin approximately 7-10 days later. Following their first shed, they will instinctively hunt for their first meal.


Rainbow boas are generally terrestrial and nocturnal. Although they usually hunt at night, they are occasionally active during the day. Their coloration helps them to camouflage with fallen foliage on the forest floor. When the boas climb in the trees, their light bellies blend in with the light rays coming through the branches when viewed from below. This dual coloration is called countershading. Like all snakes, rainbow boas have a Jacobson’s organ on the roof of their mouths which analyzes scent particles collected by their long forked tongues.

Threats and Conservation Status

Rainbow boas are at risk of becoming a threatened species in the wild due to habitat loss and the pet trade. If you are considering a rainbow boa as a pet, make sure you buy only captive bred animals from a reputable breeder.

Did you know…




Any Documents to attach, species spotlights, etc.

Contributors and Citations

  • Happy Hollow Park & Zoo, San Jose
  • Houston Zoo, Natural Encounters