Madagascar Tree Boa

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Madagascar tree boa

© Cherilyn Theisen, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium


The endangered Madagascar tree boa (Sanzinia madagascariensis) is a large, non-venomous snake unique to the African island of Madagascar.  The boa spends most of its life in the trees, only occasionally coming down to hunt.  They are "constrictors," meaning that they kill their prey by suffocation.

The greatest threats affecting Madagascar tree boas is human-related habitat loss.  Farming and development of the forests where these boas live has reduced their habitat by 85% causing a 20% decrease in the boa population over the last 10 years. Today these snakes can be found only in protected areas, however current population numbers are unknown.

The AZA Snake Taxon Advisory Group works with The Madagascar Fauna Group, an AZA Conservation Action Partnership that is composed of 39 AZA-accredited zoos and related institutions, to protect the natural habitats of Madagascar.  This initiative strives to not only help conserve the tree boa, but also many of the other species unique to Madagascar. Although the tree boa is part of a breeding program, the only way to ensure long term survival is to protect its remaining habitat through sustainable forestry.

In September 2003, the president of Madagascar agreed to triple the amount of protected land from 15,000 km² to 50,000 km², and in 2007 15 new protected areas were established.  The local people are actively involved in this conservation effort and many act as guides in these parks. The total area protected in Madagascar is now up to 2.4 million acres, which is about 10% of the California-size island.

Madagascar Tree Boa Facts

Status Endangered
Size Boas can be up to 6 feet long.
Appearance There are 2 color variations; snakes are either grey-green or yellow-brown.
Habitat Tree boas live in forested areas near bodies of water in Madagascar.
Diet Boas eat small mammals (including bats!), birds, reptiles, and frogs.
Breeding: They reach maturity at 3 years old.  Boas give birth to live young, which are red-colored to deter predators.