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Boa Constrictor ( Constrictor constrictor )

Red-tailed boa constrictor

Photo by Andy Smyth, Photographer. ©

Distribution: South & Central America

Over the past two decades, Glasgow Zoopark has maintained several sub-species of the Boa Constrictor - Boa constrictor . Currently we have three large specimens of the Common Boa, one of whom produced 44 babies in one night during June 1998.


The other sub-species we maintain is the so called Hog Island Boa , from Honduras, perhaps more accurately referred to as the Clouded Boa , Boa constrictor nebulosa . We acquired our original animals in 1982-1983 from a London reptile dealer, and occasionally from H.M. Customs seizures of illegal imports at Heathrow airport.

We bred 7 young in 1985 and believed this to be the first breeding in the UK. We have bred them several times since then. Private collections have bred them up and down the country since then too, but no other zoos, so far as we can ascertain, have done so in the UK.

At the time of acquisition they were quite small, just over 0.5 metres in length, though they soon grew, on a diet of mice and dead day-old chicks, to their adult size of 1 - 1.2 metres.

Boas are distributed widely in Central and South America, and due to geographical isolation there are many sub-species. At the time we acquired our specimens we were told that they were found on a large offshore island where they fed primarily in the passing bird spring and autumn migration season, swimming from island to island in search of newly landed birds in the mangrove swamps. As the migration season in central South America can be as long as 3 months in each direction, with perhaps millions of small birds touching down in ones, twos and small groups, constantly during that period, perhaps indicates that this is not the great hardship it might at first sight appear.

The pale, smudged markings could perhaps be explained by the bright, sunlit sands, and dappled leaves of the mangroves against the blue sky. Their slender bodies would also tend to suggest a more arboreal habitat than the ground dwelling, dry leaf habitat of the large, heavy, brightly, but cryptically patterned Common Boa.

Although we retained the original adults, most of the young have been exchanged through dealers for even more valuable pythons and boas, and we were pleased with the exchange value of the Hog Island Boas . We were less than pleased with the ludicrously low value placed on our Common Boa babies. Although understanding why dealers have to do this, we feel that with such a demand for these animals, which retail at what we think, are quite high prices, they could be more accommodating for captive bred specimens. Especially, as no money changes hands in these exchanges.

A few years ago in another Customs seizure, we ended up with some Black-bellied Boas , Boa constrictor melanogaster . These were extremely aggressive, wild-caught snakes, and we never really succeeded in calming them down much.