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Madagascan tree boa

Scientific name: Sanzinia madagascariensis

Country: Madagascar

Continent: Africa

Diet: Small mammals, birds

Food & feeding: Carnivore

Habitats: Tropical rainforest, tropical dry forest

Conservation status: Vulnerable

Relatives: Cuban boa, anaconda

Description: The Madagascan tree boa is a medium-sized constricting snake, which grows to about 2 m in length. Their colour is variable but mainly brownish to greyish-green with large pale-centred, dark, circular blotches all over the body.

Many boas, including tree boas, possesses heat-sensitive pits around the mouth, which can detect their warm-blooded prey in complete darkness. These pits are similar to the heat-sensitive cameras that rescue workers use, to find injured people after dark, in snow or beneath rubble

Lifestyle: They occur throughout a range of forested habitats from lowland tropical to dry forest and also humid upland forests. Although usually found in forest, this species will travel and hunt on the ground.

Family & friends: Boas are solitary hunters.

Growing up: Usually less than a dozen young are born live (the majority of boas do not lay eggs) after a gestation period of over six months. The young are a brilliant reddish colour and are about 25 cm in length when they are born. They gradually change to the adult green colour within their first year.

Conservation news: Their habitat is being lost through deforestation and mining. They are becoming increasingly vulnerable and there is still a problem with an illegal pet trade. This species is now part of a European breeding programme.

All Bristol Zoo Gardens' Madagascan tree boas were donated to us by H.M. Revenue and Customs at Heathrow Airport. They were seized as new-borns that were being smuggled out of Madagascar. Four babies were born in the Zoo in August 2000.