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CAPTIVE HUSBANDRY & PROPAGATION OF CANDOIA:
THE PACIFIC BOAS
BY JERRY CONWAY

DESCRIPTIONS & DISTRIBUTION

The genus Candoia is truly a very different one indeed. These boas, in general, all look quite similar. They all have a narrow triangular shaped flat head with an upturned rostral. Their heads make them look venomous, and in some way prehistoric. Viper boas in particular resemble the venomous death adder. All Candoia have rounded sausage shaped bodies even though some are quite slender. Colors may vary, but most Candoia are often some shade or combination of tan, gray and black. Some Solomon Islands ground and tree boas are spectacularly colored with reds, oranges, yellows and even pinks. New Guinea tree boas are also nicely colored. All specimens have some kind of blotching or banding. Some Solomon Islands tree boas can be patternless. Solomon Islands ground boas all have a characteristic zig-zag stripe dorsally. All Candoia have thick keeled scales and strong prehensile tails. As with all boas, these snakes are mostly nocturnal. Adult sizes range from 22 inches to 6 feet, with most being 2-3 feet. Candoia are found only on islands in the South Pacific. They do not occur on any mainland areas. The range encompasses eastern Indonesia, which includes the islands of Halmahera, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and several of the Fiji Islands. Candoia occupy a variety of different habitats, including dry woodlands to rainforests. Many are found near human dwellings where rodents are abundant.

The following species names are what I believe to be valid. Some of these are common or generic names that have been used in herpetoculture for many years.

  • Solomon Islands ground boas: Candoia Carinata Paulsoni
  • Solomon Islands tree boas: Candoia Bibroni Australis
  • Viper boas: Candoia Aspera
  • New Guinea tree boas: Candoia Carinata Carinata
  • Fiji boas: Candoia Bibroni Bibroni
  • Halmahera boas: Candoia Sp

The genus Candoia is still undergoing taxonomic review. Santa Isabel ground boas (white Paulsoni) and Halmahera boas may deserve full species status.

BASIC CARE

I keep my Candoia in several different types of cages according to size and species. I use Vision cages, Neodesha cages, and even old aquariums and plastic storage boxes. Large enclosures are not needed because of the general small size of most specimens. Candoia are fairly easy to maintain and do not need any special care. Viper boas should be kept more humid than other species. Large water bowls are necessary for all animals. Candoia love to soak and drink quite often. Branches should be provided for Australis and Carinata. Despite their name, ground boas will also utilize branches. I keep my room temperature at approximately 80 degrees year round. Feeding Candoia is a little different than feeding other boids. They are not very active animals and have a slower metabolism than most snakes. My adults are fed one appropriate sized rodent every 3-4 weeks. Neonates are fed every 7-10 days. Most of my specimens only shed 3 times per year.

BREEDING

A 4-6 week cooling period is recommended to induce breeding activity. Temperatures should drop to a low of 65-70 degrees, then go back up to 80 during the day. I highly recommend the use of multiple males with all Candoia species. I will usually place several males with several females in the same cage. Certain males will immediately pair up with receptive females. Occasionally, one male will only breed with one particular female and no others. Most of my males are proven breeders, so copulation will commonly last on and off for almost 8 weeks. I have seen ground and viper boas copulating in their water bowls. I have also seen Australis copulate in their branches. When breeding ground boas, I am trying to pair up certain color morphs to produce highly contrasting neonates. Usually, low contrast adults will produce babies that look similar. Brightly colored, high contrast specimens, when bred together, will produce light colored high contrast babies. These babies will have light or even white background colors with a dark bold zig-zag stripe. Gravid females have a 7-9 month gestation period. These females should be kept between 80 and 85 degrees. Captive born Candoia rarely even attempt to bite. Wild caught imports can be nasty, especially viper boas. I also have several viper boas that are completely docile.

CARE OF NEONATES

Newborn Candoia are very small and fragile at birth. They will often refuse pinkie mice, but will devour small treefrogs or lizards. It is instinctive for them to reach out and grab swift moving prey. I typically do not offer any food items until neonates are at least 3 weeks old. Once neonates have established themselves, they will do quite well and will double in size in just 3 or 4 months. If you cannot acquire frogs or lizards, you can assist feed with mouse tails or use a pinkie pump to get them started. I keep babies in small shoeboxes with paper towels and a small water bowl. Young viper boas are the best feeders. This could be because they are fairly aggressive as babies.

SUMMARY

Candoia are truly unique and different animals. They are an interesting and diverse group of boas. Much scientific work is still pending on Candoia as there is more to discover. I look forward to taking Candoia propagation into the 21st century and gaining more knowledge with every day.