We also have boas that serve as animal ambassadors, visiting schools, hospitals, nursing homes, television studios, and classes and parties at the Zoo. When an education program needs a large, easily seen reptile at the San Diego Zoo, Manja is the man! He's a Madagascar ground boa. Born in 1996 at the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas, he came to the San Diego Zoo two months later and is named for a city in the part of Madagascar where these ground boas are found. He's nearly 20 pounds (9 kilograms) and over 6 feet (1.8 meters) long and so strong that he's usually brought out by two people to greet our visitors.
Manja is special for many reasons: he's only one of 32 Madagascar ground boas living in the US and the only one we know of who works as an ambassador! It's not often that people get to meet such a big snake and learn about one first hand, so he’s an ambassador for all snakes, helping teach people about the their important place in the web of life.
Two other boa ambassadors are Rosy, our rosy boa, who was born in 1962 and is still going strong, and Ruby, a red-tailed boa born in 2003.
The Turks and Caicos rainbow boa Epicrates chrysogaster is found only in the Turks and Caicos Islands and adjacent islands in the southern Bahamas of the Caribbean. Very little is published or known about this small, cryptic, constricting snake. It can reach 6 feet (1.8 meters) in length, but specimens this size are very rare, and the average adult size is slightly less than 3 feet (0.9 meters). Due to its small size, extremely docile temperament, and beautiful rainbow-like sheen, the species was heavily collected for the pet trade in the 1970s, raising concern for its survival in the wild.
Rainbow boa populations are now threatened by habitat destruction and introduced predators, including rats, cats, and dogs. A project began in 2009 to capture, measure, mark with PIT tags, and release the boas to document their daily and seasonal movements, habitat preferences, diet, reproduction, and sources of mortality. The information gathered can be used to make informed conservation and management recommendations for the islands where the species occurs.