Psammophis tanganicus

By Carlo Comazzi, Italy

Last edited in August 2014

Distribution: Libya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania.
Size: Maximum 140cm; normally 70cm.
Habitat: Usually at elevations up to 1.300 meters, in dry grassy savanna, hill country, and low grassland.
Habits: Ground dwelling. Fast and very active.
Diet: Feeds mainly on lizards and small mammals.

P. tanganicus is a medium sized snake with a slender cylindrical body. The head is slightly elongated and clearly set off from the body at the neck. Eyes are large, pupil round and iris yellow-brown.
According to the Field Guide to the Reptiles of East Africa (Spawls, S., Howell, K., Drews, R., Ashe, J., 2004) the scales are smooth, in 15 rows at mid body, ventrals 146 to 165, subcaudals 81 to 114. Average length is 50 to 80 cm, hatchling size is unknown. The color pattern is reported to be variable.

I have kept two specimens, probably a pair (although I am not 100% sure), for around one and a half year during 2006-2008. These animals arrived with several other Psammophis, of which I also got sibilans and orientalis. For what I know they were all imported from Egypt and I have never known their exact origin.

At their arrival the animals looked a little thin but not in too bad conditions. This is something I have noticed with all the Psammophis Iíve been able to see on the market. They were around 40-50 cm long, so sub adult to adult animals. One of the them, the supposed male, lacked part of the tail which is normally of moderate length in this species. Initially the snakes were kept together in the same cage, but very soon they were moved to individual cages because of their shyness and because one, the smaller, fed fewer then the other. Both snakes were kept in a room with a diurnal temperature of around 25-27įC and a night temperature of around 21-23įC. A basking spot of around 31-33 degrees was provided during the day. Both heat mats and lamps have given the same good results. As a substrate, both wood chips and a mixture of coarse-grained sand and earth were used. Inside the cages a small water bowl, several hides like bark and stones and small branches were also provided. Although they are reported to be probably also highly arboreal, I donít remember this as a characteristic behavior.
They were rather shy, spending a lot of time in the vicinity of hiding places and immediately hiding as soon as their cage was approached. They were active during the day moving around in the cage and basking, but not as active as the other species I have kept.
They also didnít like to be handled, trying to escape as soon as possible (however, they have never tried to bite). Therefore, they have always been kept quiet and handling was limited as much as possible.

Feeding was in the beginning problematic. Because in the wild they should probably feed more on lizards, an initial period of live preys and lizard scented pinky mice was necessary to let them accept normal defrosted laboratory mice (Mus musculus). As for the size, only pinkies or fuzzies were provided because bigger preys have always been refused. Defrosted preys were left inside the cage and only sometimes accepted from the tongs. My tanganicus have never been great eaters (maybe also due to their supposed preference on lizards), often refusing their meal, especially if provided with regular intervals. They have always maintained their slender body, never fattening up. Despite that, they have been in good healthy condition for all the time I have kept them.