Boas are large, heavy snakes that kill their prey by constriction—they squeeze so tightly that the prey suffocates. Boas are found throughout the world in the tropics, and they include the only giant constrictors found in the Americas. The Amazon River basin is home to the anaconda, the biggest boa of them all. The anaconda is so heavy that it needs to be in water to move swiftly, but it is powerful enough to kill deer. Unlike most other reptiles, boas do not lay eggs but give birth to live young.

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Boas Class

Reptiles (Reptilia)


Lizards and snakes (Squamata)


Boas (Boidae)

Number of species


Key features

Medium to large constricting snakes, nonvenomous, give birth to live young


Tropical forests, grasslands, deserts, and wetlands


North, Central and South America, Africa, Madagascar, central Asia, and islands of southwest Pacific Ocean


Backboned animals, up to the size of deer

Boas, like many other large snakes, are killed for their skins, which are highly prized in the leather trade. These snakes are not farmed for their skins, and collecting them from the wild has caused population declines. Boas are also consumed by indigenous people and collected for the pet trade. They have long been popular as pets because of their large size and relatively calm demeanor. Probably their biggest threats are the ever-increasing human populations and the loss of prime habitat. Boas are very important in controlling rodent populations which, when in excess, can have a seriously negative impact on the environment.