Don’t breathe out

Boa Constrictor

Apart from the album that I've uploaded, this is the last of the photos that I'll post from our visit to The Giraffe House. Boa Constrictors aren't native to Africa, but I thought that I'd post this photo because the snake show/educational was so interesting. I'm not a parent, but what was nice was that the snake handler in the photo engaged with and invited kids forward to touch and hold snakes - yup, even this large Boa Constrictor.

One of the interesting things that I learned was that Boa Constrictors are often kept as pets and each year several owners are killed by their friendly slithery snakes. Boas are classified as constrictors, and contrary to what you may think, they don't actually crush their prey, they suffocate it. Each time the animal (or... erm... human) breathes out, the reptile tightens its grip so that the prey is unable to fill its lungs properly. Eventually the victim is unable to catch a breath and suffocates. So... DON'T BREATHE OUT! :)

One of the other interesting things that we were taught is that if a snake is coloured with red, yellow and black, the rule of thumb is that if the red scales touch the black scales then the snake isn't poisonous [*see edit below], but if red touches yellow... you should probably back off. The handy rhyme goes:

"Red touching black - poison lack; red touching yellow will kill a fellow."

EDIT: Please see my the comment below which corrects what I understood the handler was meant by red/black and red/yellow.

3 thoughts on “Don’t breathe out

  1. Beverley

    Oh dear snakes and me don’t go together so I may well be taking this place off my list of places to visit :) but I must say well done with getting the photo if it had been me the snake and people would have only been specks in the distance..

  2. Paul

    Post author

    Bjorn, the snake handler in the photo, was kind enough to correct what I understood the little rhyme.

    Below is an excerpt from the email he sent me. It’s kinda important, so do take a read. ;)

    You miss understood me on the snake’s colouring. It’s red touching black venom lack and red touching yellow will kill a fellow. This is only to tell the difference between the Coral snakes which are venomous and the harmless King and Milksnakes that mimic the colours. The rhyme doesn’t work for all snakes.

    Also, snakes are venomous and not poisonous. You can eat a snake and even drink the venom to no ill effect. If you have holes in your mouth or stomach then that’s bad. Venom is given through a delivery system like fangs or a sting

    Sometimes there are misunderstandings and I could explain myself better. Just though I would let you know.

    Thanks Bjorn for pointing this out!
    Please take a moment to visit his site at

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