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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

St. Lucia Boa Constrictor (Constrictor oraphias)

Photos copyright: Donald Anthony & Nicole La Force
Article by: Jeannette Victor
Forestry Department

I am hoping that after reading last week’s issue we are all aware and proud that St.Lucia is home to four species of snakes.

Constrictor oraphias is the scientific name for the long dark-brown snake that we call the Boa Constrictor. This snake also goes by the local name of Tet Chyenn because it is said that the head is shaped like that of a dog. It ranges in length from 0.5m to 4.3m (20 inches to 14 ft). The skin appears glossy and varies from light brown as juveniles to dark brown as adults with crossbars on the back. The belly is light yellow with black spots. A brown line runs from the snout, passes through the eye and may continue along the back.

The boa constrictor is not restricted to a specific habitat, it could be found almost anywhere all over the island, cultivated fields, forested areas and ravines to name a few.

Constrictor oraphias feeds on birds and mammals such as rats, bats, mongooses and opossums. It skill its prey by grabbing them with its jaw and quickly enveloping it in suffocating coils. The prey then dies since its heartbeat and breathing is stopped.

Many may consider this snake to be a very fierce animal but only appears so when provoked; a loud hissing sound is then heard. Other than that, it enjoys basking in the sun and could live peacefully in any area wherever food is readily available. The boa is a non-poisonous and harmless snake.

It is said by many that the fat of the snake if melted could be used to help heal wounds. It has not been scientifically proven but we do partake in the slashing of the boa in order to sculpt out fat. This discriminating activity is prohibited by the Forestry Department, anyone found guilty of killing, and deliberately endangering a boa constrictor will be liable to a fine of five thousand dollars ($5000.00).

Did You Know?

 The boa constrictor is a sub-endemic species to our island.

 Could give birth to up to sixty-four (64) live young ones in a liter.

 Boas are good swimmers but are seldom found in water.

 They could leap up to 1/3 of their full body length.