Scientific Name: Acrantophis dumerili
Dumeril’s boas can be confused with their cousins, Acrantophis madagascariensis, or the Madagascar ground boa, made even more confusing by the fact that both species are native to Madagascar. They are similar in size and coloring.
Like other boas, Dumeril’s are non-poisonous, but instead capture their prey by asphyxiating it. Contrary to popular belief, constrictors don’t squeeze their prey or break its bones, but rather keep the prey’s lungs from expanding until they can’t breathe at all.
STATUS: It has been difficult for scientists to ascertain the number of Dumeril’s in the wild. Like many animals that have a very small range, any amount of habitat loss could be exponentially detrimental to their population numbers. For this reason, the IUCN lists them as Vulnerable. On the other hand, they have fared well in captivity and the pet trade, so if something were to happen to their native Madagascar home, zoos around the world could make strides toward replenishing their numbers.
HABITAT: Dumeril’s ground boas are native to the southwest part of the island of Madagascar (closest to the eastern coast of the African continent). Their home is made up of arid woodlands and dry forests, meaning those areas don’t get a lot of rainfall or humidity, and these snakes like it that way. Because Madagascar is below the Equator, their coldest months are May through August, and Dumeril’s ground boas hibernate during this time. Their favorite homes are under fallen logs, piles of leaves, or in burrows dug and then abandoned by other animals.
DIET: When not hibernating, the Dumeril’s ground boa prefers to hunt after dark. They use their keen senses to find and sneak up on prey such as small birds, rodents, amphibians (like frogs and salamanders), and lizards. They do not climb trees, but instead hunt on the forest floor.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: This type of boa can grow to be up to eight feet in length, but most individuals are around five or six feet long when full grown. The main part of their body is dark, either grey or brown, with patches or spots which are usually a darker color. These patches help them blend in with the leaves they slither through on the forest floor. Like other nocturnal animals, their pupils are vertical (up and down) to help them see better in the dark.
It’s All in the Name
The Dumeril’s ground boa is named after the French zoologist and herpetologist Auguste Dumeril, who lived from 1812 to 1870. In addition to his most famous work, Catalogue methodique de la collection des Reptiles, which he wrote with his father, Dumeril also studied in Mexico and was once of the first scientists to seriously study the axolotl, another L.A. Zoo resident.