Arabian sand boa (Eryx jayakari)

Also known as: Jayakar’s sand boa
GenusEryx (1)
SizeLength: 40 cm (2)

The Arabian sand boa is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1), and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

One of the smallest boa species (4), the Arabian sand boa is the only boa found in south-east Arabia, and one of the most common snakes in the United Arab Emirates (5). The body is covered in smooth, glossy scales, and coloured yellow, with an irregular patterning of brown bars and blotches (2). The features of the head are unusual, with a chisel- shaped snout, and eyes that are positioned on the top of the head, rather than the sides (5). Boas are one of the most primitive snake groups, and retain vestigial features of the four-legged ancestors from which they evolved (6). In this species, the remnants of hind limbs are apparent as small claws towards the snake’s rear (2).

The Arabian sand boa is found throughout the Arabian Peninsula and also in Iran (1) (3).

As its name suggests, the Arabian sand boa is found in arid, sandy deserts (2).

Rarely encountered by man, the harmless and nocturnal Arabian sand boa lives almost permanently under the desert sand (2) (7). The tapering head and smooth scales allow it to burrow through the soft sand without needing to surface (2). Despite these adaptations, the Arabian sand boa’s locomotion is relatively slow (7), and in order to catch prey it must rely on ambush (2). The positioning of the eyes on the uppermost part of the head allows this species to watch for prey on the surface while the rest its body remains submerged (2) (5). When prey strays too near, the Arabian sand boa strikes, coiling its muscular body around its victim and tightening its grip until the animal can no longer breathe or circulate blood (2) (6). The Arabian sand boa’s prey mainly comprises small reptiles which it can easily swallow whole, such as geckos and worm lizards (amphisbaenians) (5) (7).

Unlike most boas, which give birth to live young, the Arabian sand boa is one of only three boa species that lay eggs (8). Usually a clutch of seven eggs is laid, which take around two months to hatch (5) (8).

There are currently no known threats to the Arabian sand boa. It is widespread and in many parts of its range is considered common (5). The Arabian sand boa is also present in some protected areas in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait (1).

There are currently no known conservation measures in place for the Arabian sand boa.

To learn more about conservation in the United Arab Emirates visit:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2013)
  2. Vine, P. and Al-Abed, I. (1997) Natural Emirates: Wildlife and Environment of the United Arab Emirates. Trident Press Ltd., London.
  3. CITES (January, 2009)
  4. San Diego Zoo (January, 2009)
  5. Hellyer, P. and Aspinall, S. (2005) The Emirates: A Natural History. Trident Press Limited, United Arab Emirates.
  6. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  7. Al-Johany, A.M. and Al-Sadoon, M.K. (1996) Selected body temperature and metabolic rate–temperature curves of three species of desert snakes. Journal of Arid Environments, 34: 363 - 370.
  8. Bartlett, R.D. and Bartlett, P.P. (2005) Rosy, Rubber, and Sand Boas: Facts & Advice on Care and Breeding. Barron's Educational Series, New York.