By Dean Boshoff
House Snakes of the Genus Boaedon are truly iconic African Colubrids. In recent years they have seen a rise in popularity as both local & international hobbyists have had much success breeding different colour phases of the Cape House Snake, Boaedon capensis. Their popularity can be attributed to a few simple facts: They reach a fair size as adults, feed on a diet of rodents & breed readily in captivity. As a school boy growing up this was my first ‘pet’ snake and today, nearly 20 years later they still have a well-deserved place in my collection.
There are a number of species belonging to the Boaedon family. Typically these are all brown or variations thereof, however they all have the characteristic ‘V’ shape marking running from the rostral scale through the eye to the back of the head. Some are completely patternless as is the case with the Olive House Snake, Boeadon olivaceus, while others have mottled markings like the Dotted Boaedon maculatus. The most striking in appearance however is Boaedon lineatus, with their two cream lateral stripes running the length of the body.
They are variable in appearance with their base colour ranging from dark to reddish brown within a single clutch. They are commonly referred to as Tanzanian striped house snakes as specimens are often exported from Tanzania for the pet trade, but geographically their distribution ranges throughout parts of Eastern and Central Africa where they are often encountered around human dwellings in search of prey lending to their common name ‘House Snakes’. As is the case with most House Snake species, these are very much sexually dimorphic with females easily reaching 100cm & males rarely exceeding 60cm in length. This species is however by comparison much more slender then the Cape House Snake.
As captives these are about as straight forward as it gets. They can be kept with great success in both rack & display type setups. Their enclosure should be a minimum of 800×300 in dimension. A hot spot of around 25-30 degrees should be provided as well as 2 hides placed at opposite ends of the enclosure to allow for thermoregulation. A water dish should be placed at the cool end of the enclosure. Ceramic dishes work well as these are not easily tipped over. In a display setup climbing branches can be provided, although they are by no means essential. A UV light can also be fitted as this will show up the beautiful iridescent sheen these snakes have when exposed to sunlight. Multiple specimens can be housed together without fear of cannibalism, although one needs to practise caution when feeding. These snakes can be fed every 7-10 days & prefer several small meals as opposed to one large meal.
Tanzanian Striped House Snakes breed readily in captivity all year round. If you have a pair keep an eye on your female as they have been known to lay up to 6 clutches a year. Clutches are relatively small averaging 6-10 eggs. Once your female has had her prelay shed, remove her water dish and replace it with a lay box filled with moist sphagnum moss. House snakes are notorious for depositing their eggs in water dishes, so keep a close eye on a gravid female. Once laid eggs should be removed right away and incubated in a vermiculite filled container at a constant 28 degrees. Babies will hatch within 60 days, although the incubator should be inspected daily from day 50 onwards.
All things considered these beautiful snakes make for great captives and at present it would appear there are more individuals working with this species abroad then in South Africa. I don’t quite understand why, especially considering the fact that being from Tanzania, they are classified as exotic & thus unlike our local House Snakes require no permit to be kept nationwide, baring the Cape Provinces. For obvious reasons these should never be housed along with our local House Snakes as hybrids would just complicate things for everybody. House Snakes belong to us & I hope to see more South Africans at the forefront of exciting projects & developments within the Genus in the years to come.
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