Solomon Islands Ground Boas
Captive Husbandry &
INTRODUCTIONThe Solomon Islands Ground Boas are members of the Genus Candoia. Candoia currently recognizes three species of boas within this group. However, taxonomic review may show five or six species, as being valid. These species are as follows:
Solomon Isle Ground boas - Candoia carinata paulsoni
Halmahera Ground boas – Candoia carinata ssp.
Solomon Isle tree boas - Candoia bibroni australis
Fiji Boas – Candoia bibroni bibroni
New Guinea Tree Boas – Candoia carinata carinata
Viper Boas – Candoia aspera
Solomon Ground Boas are small (3 – 4 ft.) boas that come in more than a dozen different colors and patterns. They are unique, beautiful snakes that have been overlooked and misunderstood for many years. I will try to show you how to maintain and even breed these fascinating island beauties.
Distribution and Descriptions
Candoia are distributed exclusively on islands in the South Pacific. Paulsoni are found throughout the Solomon Islands in addition to many islands in eastern Indonesia and offshore Papua New Guinea. These snakes occur in many different habitats including dry savannas, forests and wetlands. They also frequent areas of human dwellings where rodents are abundant. Each particular island population seems to have their own forms and colors of these animals. Santa Isabel is the largest island in the Solomon Archipelago. It is from Santa Isabel that the white boas originate. Although the same snakes as other Paulsoni, these specimens are often referred to as Isabel ground boas or simply Isabels. Paulsoni that are not “white” come in many colors including red, pink, orange, gold, gray, brown, silver and even black. Certain animals show a combination of 3 or 4 colors. These individual specimens are awesome, with some having pinks, whites, oranges and reds all fused together! In addition to all these colors, these animals have the ability to change colors and to darken or lighten up. These color changes are gradual and are caused by many different factors, such as temperature, humidity, cage-mates, time of day, etc.
All Paulsoni have a characteristic zigzag stripe dorsally from head to tail. This stripe is usually unbroken. It is also darker than the snakes background color and varies in width. As with all Candoia, Paulsoni have thick keeled scales that collect and retain dirt, dust and other residue more than most snakes. They are at their most spectacular right after a shed. Isabel ground boas are not white when freshly imported. It is with great anticipation that I wait for a newly acquired Isabel to shed. Once these animals shed their old dirty skin, what lies underneath is truly incredible. Some are actually snow white! All ground boas, despite their names, have strong prehensile tails. They will use branches if provided for them. Candoia seem to have a venomous appearance, with flat, triangular heads and a squared off rostral scale similar to a hognose snake. Candoia are mostly nocturnal.
Basic Care and Maintenance
I keep my ground boas between 80 and 82 degrees year round. Candoia in general do not seem to require a hot environment. Humidity is kept at 50 – 70% with occasional cage misting. I use several different types of cages for my animals. An adult pair of Paulsoni can be kept in a 20-gallon long aquarium safely and comfortably. I use newspaper as a substrate for all animals. It is simple and easy to clean. Paulsoni love to soak, so a large water bowl is necessary. I have often seen my animals copulate in their bowls. Candoia will defecate in their bowls as well.
Because of their slow metabolism, adult Paulsoni only need to feed every three or four weeks. Babies and juveniles are fed more frequently. Large mice and weaned rats are the main diet of captive Paulsoni. Some neonates will eat pinkies. Some will only eat pinkies if scented with green tree frogs or anoles. A few babies will hold out until the end and only accept live frogs or anoles. Stubborn babies, like this, will eventually take pinkies after eating several scented meals.
When kept at 80 degrees year round, your animals will need a 6 – 8 week cooling period to initiate the breeding process. Drop the temperature to around 70 degrees at night and then back to 80 degrees during the day. This should be done in November and December with introduction of animals in early January. Although, not absolutely necessary, I recommend using multiple males to insure breeding success. I have many active breeding males in my collection. I usually introduce two females to a group of four or five males. This stimulates each male to pursue and breed with a female he is compatible with. Certain males will breed several females, but not with all of them. Occasionally a male may only breed with one particular female exclusively. Also of importance, is that female Paulsoni should not be bred in consecutive seasons. If your female produces a litter of babies, give her the next year off. I am currently working with many different colors and morphs of Paulsoni including the only known hypomelanistic specimen. I am looking forward to continuing my breeding success with Candoia in the future.
Care of NeonatesGround boas can produce large litters of young. Big females can have more than 50 babies at a time. Usually, 50% of neonates will take pinkies, but a supply of small treefrogs or anoles may be needed to feed stubborn babies. Once a neonate has eaten 4 or 5 meals it’s time to try scenting methods. It is best to wait three or four weeks to make sure the baby is very hungry. When it sees a pinkie that smells like its previous meals it is usually eaten immediately. You can keep your neonates in plastic shoeboxes on paper towels with a small water bowl.
Much scientific fieldwork needs to be done on the Candoia genus. There are many more things to learn about these diverse, beautiful boas. For instance, Halmahera boas were only discovered in 1996 and many more Candoia could be awaiting discovery. They seem to have a primitive, almost prehistoric aura about them. I have been working with them for many years and am still learning new things every day. They are easily affordable, easy to maintain, colorful, and most are docile. Additionally, Candoia have many interesting species to choose from besides the ground boas I have discussed here. I hope you will give these animals a second look and a second chance at being your next venture. You too can enjoy the many wonders of Candoia, the Pacific Boas.