Smuggled snakes slither into new home

Three Amazon tree boas that were illegally transported from South America to Florida have found a new home at the Oakland Zoo.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents seized the snakes that were illegally imported to the Port of Miami and reached out to the non-profit group Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which was able to find the slithering creatures a place at the Oakland Zoo.

Since the boas were smuggled, they cannot be returned to their natural habitat and were instead treated at the zoo’s Veterinary Hospital for months under quarantine, zoo officials said. Four Amazon tree boas were originally found at the Florida port and were treated at the zoo hospital for internal and external parasites, which veterinary staff removed by hand, according to the zoo.

Margaret Rousser, Oakland Zoo’s zoological manager, said in a statement:

“Animals illegally imported from the wild and into the pet trade are subjected to horrific conditions during the transport including overcrowding, extreme temperatures, and little to no sanitation, leading to a very low survival rate.”

Zoo officials took in the snakes knowing they only had a 50 percent chance of living. One of the boas died while in care and three survived the quarantine period, according to the zoo. Zookeepers added hiding places for the trio as they adjust to the new exhibit at the zoo’s Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Room.

The snakes tend to stay near rivers and are commonly found in humid environments, savannas and dry forests. They are colorful creatures that tend to have a pale tan to black base and yellow and red tinge. Their tongues are black and their heads have five dark stripes extending from their eyes, which either have yellow, gray or red tones.

They are known to be an aggressive species but don’t secrete venom. On average, the boas can live for 20 years while in captivity.