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Boa imperator
- Boa constrictor imperator

The Boa imperator is twilight and nocturnal. During the day it hides in caves, hollow trees or other shelters and only occasionally comes out to sunbathe.
Boa imperator
Boa constrictor imperator, observed in the Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge in Costa Rica – Lucas Vogel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Origin / Distribution

The distribution area of the Boa imperator (Boa constrictor imperator) It is distributed on both coasts to the north of Mexico., throughout Central America (Honduras, Belice, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama) and in South America in the western Andes of Ecuador, Colombia and probably Peru.

It lives from sea level to 1000 m. In Ecuador it has been reported in the provinces of Esmeraldas, Manabi, The rivers, Guayas and El Oro.

Characteristics / Appearance

The Boa imperator (Boa constrictor imperator) It's kind of powerful, with animals that live in both Central America and northern South America, so the appearance of this snake varies greatly depending on the specific locality. As one of the smallest Boa species, They have an average of 1,3 m and 2,5 m in length when fully adult, but it is known that they reach 3,7 m. They usually weigh around 6 kg, although females are significantly larger than males. The life expectancy in nature is about 20-30 years, but in captivity they can exceed 40.

Although the Boa imperator It has almost identical patterns to those of the Boa constrictor, this species usually has a darker tail, usually dark brown or very dark red. However, They are usually as colorful as their counterparts and, like the largest boas, can be bred in a variety of different colors, if the right conditions are given for its reproduction.

In particular, this species is one of only two snakes to have a confirmed XY sex chromosome system.

One population is found in the Cayos Cochinos off the north coast of Honduras.. These are naturally hypomelanistic, which means they have reduced melanin, so they are lighter in color, although they retain the distinctive darker tail that is characteristic of most members of this species. Tail color can vary from salmon pink to orange.

Nicaraguan boa imperator

Another well-known population of Boa imperator is the Nicaraguan. Although not as small as the dwarf populations of the insular islands, adults are still smaller than the largest Boa constrictor constrictor. the size of a boa Nicaraguan mature female is from 1,1 m and 1,9 kg, while the female Boa constrictor constrictor, largest, is not mature until it reaches 1,6 m and 4,5 kg. Nicaraguan individuals typically have a compact saddle pattern on their backs that is often circular in shape. These boas are reputed to be “biting”, and some individuals are quick to bite in self defense.

Continental specimens from Colombia may be among the largest boas, but this subspecies also includes a number of dwarf island populations, like those of several Caribbean islands. These populations represent the smallest members of the species..


This snake mainly inhabits rainforests, although it can also be found in semi-arid areas of tropical dry forests, grasslands, semi-desert areas, tropical islands, agricultural land and plantations. It is usually found in open spaces, how clear, forest edges, rivers (both in the water and on beaches) and near human populations.


The Boa imperator is twilight and nocturnal. During the day it hides in caves, hollow trees or other shelters and only occasionally comes out to sunbathe. Juveniles spend most of their time on tree branches., while the adults, with increasing age and weight, They live almost exclusively on the ground.. But even here there are exceptions, for example, the Saint Lucian boa lives mainly in trees even as an adult. In general, the Boa imperator shows little need to move. An adult boa equipped with a transmitter in the wild moved only 135 meters in a period of twelve days.


Except for bugs and spiders, the Boa imperator eats all the animals it can handle in size, even hitting the little alligators. Usually, uses two different hunting methods: Either actively follows the scent trails of prey, or wait for the right moment as a hunter on the prowl. When the snake gets close enough to the prey by one of these methods, launches at lightning speed and then crushes the victim using the bonds of his muscular body. The dam is squeezed so tight that circulatory collapse occurs rather than death by suffocation, as previously thought. Depending on the size of the prey, This process can take up to 16 minutes and represents a considerable effort for the snake. To avoid wasting unnecessary energy, the snake senses the prey's heartbeat and stops the suffocation process as soon as cardiac arrest occurs.

A special hunting method has also been observed in young boas: They wag their tails like a worm and thus actively attract lizards.


Due to lack of field research, we have to draw on the experience gained from keeping these animals in terrariums. The corresponding activities -according to the subspecies- only take place in certain months. During these mating periods, the female secretes sexual attractants, that males actively follow. If the male then meets the female, scratches the flanks of it with its anal spurs until it finally raises its tail and allows penetration of the hemipenis. Courtship can last for weeks, and there are always several mating sessions, that can last several hours.

The Boa imperator gives birth to live young, that at birth are surrounded by a thin skin called the membrane or egg case. Between ovulation and birth there is an average of 120 to 150 days, and the moment of weaning the offspring is usually accompanied by rains. During and after the birth process, the female defends her young, and females have also been observed helping their young out of the egg membrane by nudging them or encouraging them to crawl. After birth, young snakes are fully grown and go foraging on their own.

Threats to the species

State of conservation ⓘ

Status Minor Concern ⓘ (UICN)ⓘ

Hunting this species for its skins, meat and body parts, combined with active persecution and habitat loss have reduced populations of this species. In recent years, the number of hatcheries for its commercialization has increased..

Conservation status

  • UICN Red List of Threatened Species: Least concern
  • CITES: Appendix II.

  • The "Boa imperator" in captivity

    The "Boa imperator" in a terrarium.

    This giant non-venomous snake inhabits northern South America, Central America and southern Mexico. The climate there is subtropical to tropical., which is correspondingly warm and offers high humidity. Thus, for the keepers of this species of snake it is important that they reproduce well the climatic conditions of this region.

    The Boa imperator is suitable as a beginner snake because it is quite robust against unfavorable weather conditions. However, this also has its limits. If the air in the terrarium is permanently too dry, this can lead to shedding problems. Normally, the snake should have no problem completely shedding its skin. If it happens several times that the remains of the skin stick to the body, then you should definitely check the weather in the terrarium.

    The terrarium

    Terrarium size requirements depend on the length of the animal. The following applies: length of the snake x 0.75m length and height of the terrarium, and the length of the snake x 0.5m for the width of the terrarium.

    As in the natural environment of the Boa imperator there are only two seasons, one warm and humid and one cooler and drier, this should also be taken into account in the maintenance of the terrarium. No need to hibernate Boa imperator, but you can keep the terrarium temperature lower during the winter months and reduce feeding.

    The temperature range must be in a range of 27 to 31 °C. The ideal is that the temperature varies within the terrarium. There should be a humidity 65 to the 75%.

    A wet box is recommended.

    What substrate bark mulch can be used, sand or litter. If it is a young animal, climbing possibilities are very important.

    The drinker should be large enough for the boa to lie on it without hindrance..


    The Boa imperator, has a nocturnal lifestyle. Young boas are very good climbers and spend a lot of time in the trees.. This changes over time and the boa becomes predominantly terrestrial..

    In the first years of life, the boa sheds its skin at short intervals and grows quite rapidly.

    As far as possible, the snake should not eat any food before molting, as this could cause shedding problems. If the accommodation is too dry, shedding problems can also occur.

    The boa usually seems somewhat clumsy and lazy, since she often sits in one place and doesn't move much. But one is surprised at the speed with which he can attack.

    From my own experience, I can say that you have to be wary of this animal. If you feel threatened, can also attack unexpectedly. However, if you already have it controlled, it is very easy to handle and seems quite relaxed. Of course, each snake has a different character and this behavior cannot be generalized. However, if the boa is handled often and is used to humans, incidents are very rare.

    What to avoid, However, is to approach the snake with your hand in front, because in this case she does not realize that the prey is too big for her. but like i said, once you have it in your hands, he will normally behave peacefully and even enjoy the warmth of your hands.

    For someone looking for a calm snake that can be let loose in the living room without trying to hide in a crevice, this species is highly recommended, since it is still “smaller” compared to other boa species! However, it must be taken into account that the Boa imperator will also reach a certain length.

    Final size can also be strongly influenced by feeding., especially in the early years.


    The choice of feeder depends on the size of the snake. Basically, it can be said that the food animal should be about the same diameter as the snake at the widest part of the body. If the snake has a diameter greater than that of a mouse, and there is no rat or anything else available, can directly feed two mice one after another. As with all snakes, young animals are more voracious and their metabolism is faster than that of adults, so you can feed them more often than once a week.

    Rabbits are quite unsuitable for this snake, depending on the snake and rabbit specimen. Although boas can often eat animals three or four times larger than themselves, don't over do it. Remember that a snake digests against time. Anything that breaks down before being digested is regurgitated. This is not very tasty to see and above all to clean. By increasing the temperature in the terrarium, the decomposition process is correspondingly fast.

    In its natural environment, the main diet of the boa consists of rodents and birds. However, also eats other mammals, lizards and frogs. Most of the time it stays in one place and waits for its prey., but if he has caught a scent he will also go hunting.

    The Boa imperator kills its prey by strangling it. As such, is tied to the radius of curvature of its own spinal column when wrapped around the food animal. If the animal that serves it for food is smaller than the radius of curvature of its spine, then their prey can only be rendered unconscious. Imagine how heartbreaking it is to hear the snake's food animal begin to screech again.. Not to mention the internal injuries of the snake.

    Buy one "Boa imperator"

    Boa imperator
    Boa Constrictor Centroamericana (Boa imperator), Gómez Farías, Municipio de Gómez Farías, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Fotografiado el 23 in August of 2007 por William L. Farr. – William L. Farr, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    The Boa imperator it is a wild species, a specially protected species, an endangered species and a particularly dangerous animal. The possession of a Boa imperator may be subject to different requirements in different countries and states

    In any case, you should obtain reliable information on whether the possession of the snake requires a permit in your municipality and under what conditions, or if there is an obligation to register. Unfortunately, often you have to ask from A to B, since many administration employees do not know where this information can be obtained.

    The vet can also be a point of contact.

    In case you save yourself the trouble of informing yourself, you run the risk of having the animal confiscated. Most likely, there will be more problems and non-negligible costs.

    Purchase costs of a "Boa imperator"

    You can rarely buy one. Boa imperator in normal pet stores, but yes in the specialized ones. I don't think it's right that animals are bought by mail, although today it is also offered. You can also find reputable dealers and breeders at reptile shows, which are held from time to time even in small towns. The snake itself costs from a few 150 EUR.

    However, the purchase of the terrarium is probably the biggest expense. This includes the terrarium, the heating, lighting, furniture and decoration, the humidification system (can also be a simple spray bottle) and lots of little items. Nor should running costs be swept under the rug.. Electricity costs for heating and lighting must be anticipated during the 24 hours of the day, as well as food expenses and occasional visits to the vet.

    Videos "Boa imperator"

    Alternative names:

      1. Boa imperator, Boa constrictor imperator, Common boa, Northern boa, Colombian boa, Common northern boa (English).
      2. Boa Constrictor Impérator, Boa imperator (French).
      3. Kaiserboa, Abgottschlange, Hog Island Boa (German).
      4. Boa imperator, Boa constrictor imperator (Portuguese).
      5. "Boa común", Mazacuata, Limacoa, Culebra-venado, Bécquer (español).
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