These gorgeous snakes are KENYAN SAND BOAS. This is one of the world's smallest species of boa, with males growing to only 40-45 cm in length whilst females can reach 75-90cm. In the wild they occur in many other east African countries as well as Kenya including Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and Tanzania to name a few.
The pictures above are of Zuri, my adult male, and the pictures below are of Zahara, my female. Zuri is a Swahili word meaning attractive or cute, which is certainly appropriate for this beautiful snake, and as Swahili is the language spoken in much of east Africa it is a perfect name!
Sand boas are excellent burrowers and spend much of their time lying just below the surface of the sand, waiting for the vibrations of prey animals walking across the sand before striking out at them. You can see from the picture below that the lower jaw does not protrude as far forward as the upper jaw, meaning that they do not get a mouthful of sand when they burrow into it!
The scales on a sand boa's head and front end of the body are quite smooth, but as they get closer to the tail they begin to feel a bit keeled or ridged until eventually the tail scales are very ridged indeed as you can see below. This enables a sand boa to burrow or dig more efficiently, as they provide extra traction for travelling through soft sand.
Like all snakes, when a Kenyan sand boa is preparing to shed its skin the colour of the skin becomes very drab indeed. This is because a lubricating fluid is secreted between the old and new skins to enable it to slide off more easily when the time comes, and the pictures below show Zuri's 'before' and 'after' skin shedding colours very well!
I bought Zahara as a tiny baby in December 2009, from friends of mine who regularly have success breeding this species in large numbers, and it has been lovely watching her grow and develop over the years from such small beginnings. In fact I have enjoyed it so much that in August 2012 I added a third Kenyan sand boa to my collection, another baby (born 13th June 2012 and this time a male), so that I can watch it happen all over again! Here he is at just 6 weeks old:
I'm sure you will agree that Kenyan sand boas sure are gorgeous as babies! Their patterns are always unique, like a fingerprint, and this one has an especially nice pattern in my opinion (which is partly why I couldn't resist adding him to my collection)! I have decided to name him Zahir, which is a Swahili word meaning 'shining' and seems entirely appropriate to me because of his beautiful shiny skin!