Saturday 18 May
Kenyan sand boa (Gongylophis colubrinus)
- The Kenyan sand boa typically hunts by lying in wait under sand and ambushing passing prey.
- The Kenyan sand boa has been known to kill small prey by dragging it under the sand to suffocate it.
Kenyan sand boa fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Kenyan sand boa description
The Kenyan sand boa (Gongylophis colubrinus) is a rather stout snake with a long, cylindrical body and a short, conical, more or less pointed tail (2) (5) (6). Like other sand boas, it is a burrowing species that lies in wait under sand, ready to ambush prey from its concealed position (7).
This snake species has a relatively small, wedge-shaped head, and small eyes with vertical pupils (2) (5) (6) (7). The Kenyan sand boa’s head is covered in small scales (5) (7), and the scales on the rear of the body and on the tail are strongly keeled (2) (5).
The body of the Kenyan sand boa is generally light yellow to orange or brown above, with large, dark, irregular brown patches. The belly is cream to yellowish or white (2) (5) (7), sometimes with a few grey to light brown spots or bars, and there is usually a dark streak running through each eye (5). The colouration of the Kenyan sand boa is lighter in juveniles and intensifies with age (8).
The male Kenyan sand boa is significantly smaller than the female, with a more slender body and a relatively longer tail. Like many boas, this species possesses vestigial hind legs, known as spurs, which are longer and more conspicuous in the male than in the female (5).
- Also known as
- East African sand boa, Egyptian sand boa, sand boa.
- Anguis colubrina, Eryx colubrinus, Eryx jaculus, Eryx loveridgei, Eryx rufescens, Eryx scutata, Eryx thebaicus, Gongylophis thebaicus.
- Total length: 50 - 90 cm (2)
The Reptile Database:
International Reptile Conservation Foundation:
- A projecting ridge along a flat or curved surface, particularly down the middle.
Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) (July, 2012)
- O’Shea, M. and Halliday, T. (2010) Reptiles and Amphibians. Dorling Kindersley, London.
Cox, N., Chanson, J. and Stuart, S. (2006) The Status and Distribution of Reptiles and Amphibians of the Mediterranean Basin. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. Available at:
CITES (July, 2012)
- Lanza, B. and Nistri, A. (2005) Somali Boidae (genus Eryx Daudin 1803) and Pythonidae (genus Python Daudin 1803) (Reptilia Serpentes). Tropical Zoology, 18: 67-136.
- Chippaux, J-P. (2006) Les Serpents d’Afrique Occidentale et Centrale. IRD Éditions, Montpellier.
- Baha El Din, S. (2006) A Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Egypt. American University in Cairo Press, Cairo.
Kingsnake.com - The East African Sand Boa (February, 2011)
The Reptile Database - Eryx colubrinus (July, 2012)
- Rodríguez-Robles, J.A., Bell, C.J. and Greene, H.W. (1999) Gape size and evolution of diet in snakes: feeding ecology of erycine boas. Journal of Zoology, 248: 49-58.
- Bartlett, R.D. (2005) Rosy, Rubber, and Sand Boas. Barron’s Educational Series, New York.
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
Kenyan sand boa biology
Like other sand boas, the Kenyan sand boa feeds mainly on small mammals, but also eats lizards and birds (2) (5) (10). Sand boas catch their prey by burrowing in loose soil or sand or using the burrows of other small animals to conceal themselves (5) (11). They then ambush passing prey, using constriction to kill it or sometimes swallowing it alive. The Kenyan sand boa is also likely to actively search for nestling mammals and birds. As well as killing prey by constriction, this species has been reported to dispatch small prey by pulling it under the sand to suffocate it (5).
A burrowing species, the Kenyan sand boa usually hides in a hole or buried beneath sand during the day, emerging to hunt at night. However, it may also hunt or bask during the day (5).
The Kenyan sand boa reaches maturity within two to three years (5) and gives birth to live young (2) (5). Mating is thought to be seasonal, generally occurring in spring and early summer (5) (8), with the male often having to dig the female out of the sand before mating can occur (5). The female Kenyan sand boa gives birth to between 4 and 20 young around 4 to 5 months after mating. The young measure around 17 to 20 centimetres in length and average about 8 grams in weight (5).
This species has been recorded living up to ten years in captivity (5).Top
Kenyan sand boa range
The Kenyan sand boa occurs across northern and eastern Africa, from Libya and Niger east to Egypt, and south to north-eastern Tanzania. Its range includes Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Kenya (5) (8), and it may also occur in the Arabian Peninsula, in Yemen (2) (8).Top
Kenyan sand boa habitat
The Kenyan sand boa generally inhabits loose sandy soil, desert margins and vegetated sand dunes in arid and semi-arid areas (5) (7). It has been recorded from sea level to elevations of about 1,500 metres (5).Top
Kenyan sand boa statusTop
Kenyan sand boa threats
Little information is available on the threats to the Kenyan sand boa. However, in Egypt it is reported to be uncommon and localised, and is declining due to habitat destruction. It is not yet known how well this species can adapt to new habitats (7).
Another potential threat to the Kenyan sand boa is over-collection for the pet trade, because of its popularity as a pet overseas (7). This snake is the most commonly kept sand boa species in the United States, although large numbers are now bred in captivity (8).Top
Kenyan sand boa conservation
The Kenyan sand boa is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that international trade in this species should be carefully monitored (4).
There are not known to be any other specific conservation measures currently in place for this attractive snake.Top
Find out more
Find out more about the Kenyan sand boa and other reptiles:
More information on reptile conservation:
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:
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.