Care Sheet for Solomon Island Boas (Candoia Paulsoni )
The Breeding and Care of Candoia Paulsoni or the Solomon Island Boa
This article is based on my own experiences of keeping Candoia Paulsoni/Solomon Island Boas over the last 8 years. I originally acquired a group of 6 week old none feeding hatchlings from a man that worked at Bristol zoo in Clifton, where the parents of my original animals were kept by the Lion keeper of the zoo. He kept approximately 6 individuals together in a very large vivarium with a single green tree python occupying the top of the vivarium and the boas occupying the lower half. This setup obviously seemed to work quite well as he has producing several litters of boas every couple of years. I paid the pricely sum of £15 each for them as non-feeding neonates, as that is what they were advertised for on the website RFUK. At the time I really had no idea what I was letting myself in for as I had never kept a species that was this difficult to get feeding on rodent prey before (this explained the price)! It took me 2 YEARS to get the initial neonates established on defrost rodent prey, and I lost half of them in the process. So make no mistake, while these animals make very hardy captives once they are grown on, this takes a while to achieve!
These are one of the few species of snake that I have ever raised in groups. I keep a pair of babies in each tub from after they are born. My thinking behind this was that they are so reluctant to eat anything at all that the chances of them eating each other would be non existent. They are born virtually the size of match sticks.
My experiences on raising the two different groups (the Bristol zoo group and then the offspring of them many years later), is that there are a great deal of misconceptions about this species. Most of the information on the internet and in books appeared to be complete garbage.
Personally, I found that the babies died if kept above 28 degrees centigrade for any period. The optimum temperature favoured by the babies is COMPLETELY different to that of the adults. I would assume that in nature the babies are basically fossorial, so they must live at much cooler temperatures than the adults. I raise babies with a background temperature of 22 degrees and a hotspot of about 26 centigrade, they rarely if ever use the heat for the first year. This is entirely different for the adults.
I have started babies off on a few different prey items, but the main mistake people make is leaving the babies too long before starting to feed them. If they get too weak they will never feed themselves. So one week after they have all shed I offer live pinkie multimammate mice. Multimammate mice appear to be more attractive to this species (and almost all snakes), but I have also started them on normal mice pinkies aswell.
These live pinkie multi mice should be left in overnight….and in the morning probably about 10%-30% of the mice will be gone for the first couple of feeds. The individuals which have immediately fed on live are then separated into another rack and then I would continue to feed them on live. Those Candoia which did not eat the pinkie mice I would then try the next week on more mice in the same manner. THEN, after this has failed twice I would start to force feed them. I have force fed this species on fish and pinkie heads in the past. Pinkie heads is in my experience the bes thing from a nutritional point of view to get them going on. And with this species, force really does mean force the food down them. Do not be afraid to be quite rough with them, as if you do not get the food down them they will quickly die anyway. I use a pair of very small tongs that I purchased at the hamm reptile show for this purpose (but blunted tweezers will suffice). I have a video on the website showing how I do this.
It may seem harsh to watch me forcing food down them, but it is the only way to get them going. In the wild they must eat small frogs or some other food source which we cannot replicate in captivity. Whatever they eat it would appear that it is not rodents, although that can certainly sustain them! After about 6 months of weekly force feeding them to a size that they look like they could easily take a pinkie, start offering live multi mice again, and then a few more of them will start to eat live (usually around 60% are now on live). The rest of the animals will then start to take live prey after about 8 months to a year.
Here is a video of me force feeding candoia
Now all of the animals are feeding on live prey, which in the UK is not considered acceptable. Now begins the process of starting them on defrost prey. The only way to achieve this is to assist feed them (which I realise is almost a step back), if you put a pinkie head in their mouths and sort of twist the snakes head in a turning motion (this is hard to explain), they will then start to constrict it. After about half a dozen feeds in this manner the baby candoia will then finally start to seem interested in strike feeding on pinkies.
Using this method I have achieved a broadly 80% survival rate of hatchlings, which for a specialised species which is not that regularly seen in the hobby, is in my opinion pretty successful. Other people I have spoken to who have tried feeding the babies mousetails, scenting pinkies with lizards and other methods have at best seemed to have achieved much more limited survival of hatchlings (nearer 50% survival rate). Which is not bad, as in the wild they must have much nearer a 10% survival rate, which would explain the large number of babies from such a small species of snake.
AND one year after birth, you have animals that are ready to go to new homes. The market for Candoia in the UK is actually very limited, and considering the amount of man hours that go into each baby they should probably have a value of about 500 pounds. Unfortunately that is not the case! As in all things in the reptile keeping hobby, these animals are often overlooked in favour of more flashy animals with less specialised life cycles. However it is my belief that this species will become more popular as they become more established in captivity over subsequent generations.
Housing and Feeding Adult Specimens of Candoia Paulsoni
I house adult female candoia in 2 foot cube wooden vivariums with a ceramic heat bulb with a hotspot of 29c. For substrate I use eco earth mixed with soil and orchid bark. I have also maintained them on other substrates, but this appears the most natural. This species appears to shy away from bright lighting, and has no need for UV lights (in the opinion of the author), although obviously they certainly would not have a detrimental effect if individual keepers should decide to use them.
However, adult male candoia are MUCH smaller than females, Both of my adult males live in 12l RUBS (shoeboxes). The males I keep at room temperature year round in the UK to stimulate breeding. I put the males in with the females in about February (the female tank I keep with a 29c hotpot year round), and within a few days they should copulate. I leave the male in with the female for several months, or until copulation appears to cease. I have found tht this species eats readily on chicks and rodents as adults. I feed my adult males months on a single chick or mouse, and my biggest female eats either 2 chicks or a large weaner rat about every 2 weeks. I find that the males appear to only eat for about 7 months of the year, with no ill effects. Last year my male stopped feeding in feubary, and started eating in June.
Some people seem to think that this species seems to enjoy soaking in water bowls. However in my opinion this is because people confuse them with the closely related viper boas which do this regularly, when adult this species almost never sits in the water bowl at all unless it has an underlying health issue such as mites.
It is important that this species has somewhere to climb and exercise its muscles, I usually arrange two branches in a V shape in order to facilitate this whether the animal lives in a tub or a vivarium. Some of my related candoia which I acquired recently had been kept in a barren box for 10 years, and due to this (in my opinion) they appeared to have lost most of their muscle tone and could barely climb. Animals in this condition never make the best subjects for a breeding project, so I have had to spend over a year rehabilitating them (keeping them in a bigger box full of logs!)