Madagascar tree boa (Sanzinia madagascariensis)
This medium-sized constrictor occurs in two color variations. Prevalent mainly in the eastern half of the range is the green to grayish-green form which tends to be about two-thirds of the size of the Mandarin form which is yellow, orange and brown and occurs in some parts of the western side of the range. They are heavy bodied with triangular heads on thin necks. These snakes average about 4 to 5 feet, weighing about 7 to 13 lbs, with females growing larger than males. Some specimens have been reported at lengths of 8 feet and weights of 30 lbs.
Status in the Wild
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List status: Least concern. Though very common throughout Madagascar, these snakes are still considered at risk. Their habitat is being lost through deforestation and mining. It is believed that only 15% of Madagascar’s original forested areas remain. Listed as CITES Appendix I, which means that it is threatened with extinction and CITES prohibits international trade except when the purpose of the import is not commercial, (example: scientific research). Though sales are prohibited, there is still a problem with illegal pet trade.
This snake is found solely on the island of Madagascar and on the small nearby island of Nosy Be. It can be found throughout the islands’ forested habitats, primarily where water is nearby.
Madagascar tree boas feed primarily on birds, bats and small, ground-dwelling mammals.
- While they provide some protection for the skin, the major role of scales is to prevent water loss – they provide a water-tight covering preventing dehydration for ectothermic animals that depend on basking in the sun for their body heat.
- Though referred to as a tree boa, this snake is more commonly found on the ground. It’s designation as a tree boa perhaps stems from the fact that it is more arboreal than the other boas found on Madagascar.
- The offspring of tree boas are a brilliant scarlet color, with darker markings, presumably as a mimicry warning coloration against predators and also as camouflage amongst the brightly colored treetop flowers.