Hungary's first
scientific site about Boa constrictors

History

Ever since Boa constrictor had been described as a new species, in the last 250 years this species came a long way and rightly became the most popular snake in captivity. Due to its' relatively calm temper, medium size, phenomenal coloration and last, but not least its' diverse appearance, Boa constrictors can own that title pridefully and witout any question.

Carolus Linneaus described only the species, furthermore alluded to diversity of populations (currently recognized as subspecies). Actually, subspecies were described later by various taxonomists. Validity of most of Boa constrictor subspecies are problematic and questionable. We are not surprised at all, since there is no generally accepted definition for the term "species" (what we should consider as species), not to talk about the "subspecies" level. There would be further field studies needed to clear this matter up, but most likely they will never happen, due to rapid shrinkage of habitats and populations.

It is important to mention that very wide diversity can be noticed in both color and pattern among different populations. To be more complex, there can be considerable diversity even in the very same populations. One must also be aware tha fact that in general place of exportation and place of collection have no coherence. For instance, animals exported via Leticia (South Colombia) are actually from the Valley of Rio Magdalena (North Colombia). However, sellers often mislabel these specimens as "Leticia boas" and sell them as such, making lot of confusions regarding the true locality.

Excessive exportation has been playing a key role in becoming common in captivity. Altough, CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is trying to regulate the pet trade, 18.000 Boas leave Colombia year by year to find new homes as pets. What is more, there was a year when more than 30.000 specimens left the South American country. Nicaragua, Suriname and Guyana has also a big part in exportation. While Colombia and Nicaragua gives only farm bred specimens to the reptile community, Suriname and Guyana exports mostly wild caught snakes that would certainly participate in local populations. In addition, CITES is dealing with flora and fauna only at subspecies level. Therefore, distinct populations that are not considered as separate subspecies (F.i.: Hog island boa-Boa c. imperator) can extinct without any intervention by CITES.

Unfortunately- due to primitiveness of reptile keeping in the early years, or due to irresponsible breeders these days -most of captive Boa constrictors are crossbred specimens. These animals that had been and are created only by human intervention, they do not exist in the wild, of course.

Colour and pattern mutations (aka designer boas) were also created artificially (motley, calico, ghost, salmon, snow striped, tiger, etc). These artificial boas have been bred -especially in the US- for generations, obviously mainly for financial reasons, since a rare colour and/or pattern morph speciment can cost as high as 15.000-20.000 dollars.

It is needed to clear up dillemas with the names of this species. "Redtail boa" was originally used to describe Boa c. constrictor in South America. As the time went on, sellers improperly took this term over and started to lebel other boas with it for easier selling.

We can also met name "common boa". This term is used for both imperator and constrictor subspecies by various taxonomists. Since it is not unambiguous, I recommend not use it. Boas that were bred in captivity and were from different subspecies are named as "crossbred boas".

As we have refered eariler, most of wild Boa constrictor populations are endangered and likely to disappear in a few decades (or even sooner), if humans continue destroying their habitats. Therefore we -as breeders -have an enormous role and responsibility in conservation of subspecies and localities pure, just the way as the Nature created them.

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