Kenyan Sand Boa

Sand boas are small, stout bodied snakes of the subfamily Erycinae of the family Boidae. Recent taxonomic reclassification has assigned two genera which are commonly referred to as sand boas: Eryx and Gongylophis.

Sand boas are found throughout arid and semi-arid regions of Africa, throughout the Middle East and into Pakistan and India as well as the former Soviet states of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. They tend to prefer areas with loose sand or soil.

Sand boas are stout bodied snakes which vary in length by species. The largest of the species, E. johnii rarely exceeds 120 cm. Most species stay in the 60 cm range. Patterning and coloration varies depending on locale, most species reflect the colors of their native habitat for camouflage. Sand boas have small eyes and hard, small scales to protect their skin from from the grit of sand. G. conicus gets its common name, the rough-scaled sand boa, because of a series of protruding scales on its back which give it a bumpy texture. There is a great deal of sexual dimorphism in sand boas, the females generally being much larger than the males.

Sand boas spend much of their time basking below the surface of the sand, with only their head exposed on the surface. When a potential prey item approaches, they erupt out of the sand, bite, and employ constriction to subdue it. Their primary diet is rodents, but they will also consume lizards and birds if they can catch them. Sand boas are far removed from their other Boidae cousins, but one thing they do have in common is that they are ovoviviparous.