Natural History Information
Range and Habitat
- Dumeril’s ground boas are found in the dry forests in southwest Madagascar. It has also been found living in very degraded habitats, often close to villages.
- Dumeril’s ground boas live approximately 20 to 30 years.
- They are important for population control of prey species.
- Life Cycle Natural History Relevant Information
- Bowl large and deep enough for the snake to submerge itself but shallow enough (or with branches, rocks, etc.) that the snake can move in and out with ease.
- Hides in both the warmer and cooler ends of the enclosure.
- Include rough and smooth areas/items/substrates to aid with shedding.
- Temperature, Humidity, Light Cycles
- Social Housing/Colony Management
- This is not a social species.
- Other General Housing Requirements or Management information
- Life Cycle Relevant Information
- In the wild, this snake eats small mammals killed by constriction at ground level.
- Dumeril’s ground boas are nocturnal predators. They will lay virtually motionless for long periods of time, waiting for an unwary prey animal to pass. When the prey is in range, the boa strikes out, grabs the prey, and kills it via constriction.
- Diet under human care
- In captivity, they are fed rats.
- Behavioral Relevant Information
- Dumeril’s boas are ambush predators.
- Environmental Enrichment
- Branches and elevated shelves that can support their weight
- Novel substrates offered in a removable tray for tactile stimulation
- Changing out rocks, hides, and branches
- Behavioral Enrichment
- Food items can be drug in a trail around the enclosure if the animal is out to encourage tongue flicking.
- With veterinary approval, browse or furniture that has been in with mammals can be very stimulating.
- Always provide heavily scented items in small amounts and on one side of the enclosure so the snake can move away if uncomfortable. Monitor for signs of stress.
- Other Enrichment Resources
- Check out the Reptelligence Facebook page and Reptelligence website for enrichment and training inspiration.
- Advancing Herpetological Husbandry July 2018 Quarterly Newsletter- Environmental Enrichment for Reptiles By Charlotte James
- Behaviors Trained
- Reinforcers used & schedule of reinforcement
- Threats and Conservation Status
- IUCN Least Concern, CITES Appendix I
- Dumeril’s boas are threatened with extinction and protected in Madagascar. There are no estimates of numbers left in the wild, which could be why it has the IUCN status of least concern.
- They are victims of habitat destruction – their forest habitat has often been converted for agriculture or grazing. Less than 10% of Madagascar’s forests remain undisturbed. In addition, Dumeril’s boas are often killed out of fear or superstition by East Africans settling in Madagascar. The skins are sold in Madagascar, and abroad.
- One of the best ways for people to help the rainforest is to reduce their use of tropical woods. Many rainforest trees are felled each year for lumber, furniture, and other products that end up in countries all over the world. Much of tropical wood imported into the United States comes from South America, particularly the Amazon Rainforest. Flooring, musical instruments, picture frames and other products made of rosewood should be particularly avoided to slow deforestation on Madagascar and to avoid the extinction of endangered or vulnerable rosewood tree species from forests all around the equator. Ask guests to consider used or vintage furniture or new furniture made of wood that has been reclaimed from old structures. There are many alternatives to conventional lumber including flooring and other products made from fast-growing bamboo, and decking made of recycled plastic formed to look like wooden boards.
- Global Trees Campaign and Rainforest Relief have helpful articles about rosewood.
- 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.
- Interesting Natural History Information
- 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 rather than the mother’s body.
- Mating season is November to March. Females bear live young May through October.
- Did you know…
- Boas are one of the most primitive of snakes, and have vestiges of a pelvis and hind legs (small spurs on either side of the vent) and well-developed, paired lungs.
- The common name for Dumeril’s boa in Malagasy, the native language of Madagascar, is “do,” pronounced like “dough.”
- Dumeril’s boas possess heat-sensing labial pits (on the lips) to help them find their prey.
- The species was named after the 19th century French naturalist A.M.C. Dumeril.
Handling & Presentation Tips
- Should not be handled for 2 days after eating.
- Should not be handled from the time they go “blue” (eyes turn opaque) until after they shed.
- It is helpful to have a DO NOT USE sign keepers can hang on the enclosure. Some institutions also include the date, “I was blue starting on ___,” or “I was fed on ___.”
Public Contact and Interaction Guidelines
- Public can be permitted to touch this snake while it is being held by a handler. The handler should stay aware of the head location at all times, redirecting as necessary to keep it facing away from guests.
- Encourage guests to use two-finger touching, moving down the body (in the same direction as the scales) in order to prevent accidental lifting of scales.
- 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.
- Once exported from Madagascar in large numbers for the pet trade, they are now readily bred in captivity and can be found in the private sector.
- After looking at other AZA institutions for surplus animals, check with your local herpetological society and reptile rescue organizations. Many of these animals are purchased by the public at reptile stores and expos and owners are unable to keep them for their whole lifespan. If purchasing, look for a reputable breeder to avoid wild caught specimens.
- Check out sample animal policies, handling sheets, and fact sheets on our Example Policies & Guidelines page
- View past issues of Program Animal SAG Newsletters
- Ambassador Animal SAG Newsletter Vol. 2, Issue 3: Temperature and Transport: Welfare Implications for Ambassador Ectotherms
- Choice, Control, and Training in Ectotherms, By Carrie Kish
- Stress Management in Reptiles and Frogs
- Reptile Lighting Information
- Check out the Advancing Herpetological Husbandry Facebook group. They have also published several newsletters (see Reptiles page for links).
- See: AAH -January 2018 Quarterly Newsletter Article: Temperature and Heat for Reptiles By Roman Muryn
Contributors and Citations
- The Philadelphia Zoo
- Houston Zoo, Natural Encounters
Comments from the Rating System
- Houston Zoo: Ours was way too much of a scaredy-cat and tended to bite when startled
Cover Photo: Brandywine Zoo