GVBVenomouslySnake ArtBoas and Pythons
Boas and Pythons*
The family boidae--boas and pythons--counts some of the largest land animals among its numbers. Species can attain lengths of 10 meters (33 feet) and weights in excess of 500 pounds. Others members of the family reach lengths of only 45 centimeters (14 inches) and weigh mere ounces. The majority of boas and pythons are somewhere in between, around two meters (six feet) in length. Inhabiting all the continents save one, Antarctica, their range extends from steaming equatorial jungles to the chilly temperate forests of northwestern North America. Some species ply tropical rivers and others swim through the sands of parched deserts in Asia and North Africa. Beautiful, crytically-colored arboreal boids hunt rainforest tree canopies while hundreds of feet below, terrestrial species pursue their prey on the forest floor. Diminutive types stalk small lizards and frogs; the giants hunt mammalian prey as large as pigs or antelope. Anacondas add adult caiman to their menu.
Although pythons and boas are consummate predators, they are in turn the prey of other species, including man. Native peoples hunt boas and pythons for food, but their predation is all but inconsequential. “Civilized man” has taken a much more devastating toll on these giant snakes. Mankind’s wholesale destruction of habitat is a universal threat to all species, but the leather trade has been especially tragic for giant snakes. Cold-blooded and scaley rather than cute and cuddly, reptiles are rarely at the top of conservation priorities. Enlightenment comes slowly. People who would never wear a baby seal coat purchase python skin boots or boa skin handbags. At present both C.I.T.E.S. and US Fish & Wildlife (www.fws.gov) list all species of boas and pythons as either endangered or threatened. These listings afford the giant snakes some measure of protection but until the demand for exotic leather becomes just a bad memory and habitat is protected, no species is safe.