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West Indian Boa Conservation

Boa Conservation at the Toledo Zoo

The award-winning West Indian boa conservation program is one of the most comprehensive multi-species conservation efforts in any  institution. Since 1984 the program has worked on nine species of endemic boas (four of them critically endangered ) on seven islands in the Greater Antilles and the Bahamas, including Cuba, Hispaniola, Mona, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We were the first institution to breed the endangered Mona boa, Chilabothrus monensis, and the Virgin Islands boa, Chilabothrus granti.  The Toledo Zoo even won the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Edward H. Bean award for these efforts. We carried out two successful reintroductions of the Virgin Islands boa to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands- the first reintroductions of Species Survival Plan reptiles. Our program also won the AZA Conservation Award and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species Program Award for these recovery initiatives.

Our work with island species has put us in a unique position to aid the U.S. military in their stewardship efforts for endangered species of the Caribbean. In the past we have worked with the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy in conserving the endangered Puerto Rican boa, Chilabothrus inornatus, on several military installations, including Fort Buchanan, Naval Security Group Activity Sabana Seca, Naval Station Roosevelt Roads and the offshore islands of Culebra and Vieques. We are currently working with the U.S. Navy on a long-term conservation plan for the Cuban boa, Chilabothrus angulifer, at Naval Station Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

We make every effort to share our successful techniques with other boa conservation entities and have hosted numerous workshops for the U.S. Navy, the Departamento de Recursos Naturales de Puerto Rico, the Parque Zoológico Nacional in the Dominican Republic, the Hope Zoo in Jamaica and several universities throughout the Greater Caribbean region.

C. striatus habitat in Cotui Dominican Republic.

Study Area – Isla Mona

Playa Mujeres – Isla Mona

Subtropical Dry Forest – GTMO Cuba

Dr. Peter Tolson reintroduces a Virgin Island boa in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Reintroduction programs like this are important for the species population, especially if they are declared threatened or endangered in the wild.

Toledo Zoo herpetologist Peter Tolson, Ph.D., director of conservation and research examines the mouth of Pinky, a male Cuban boa at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station veterinary treatment facility.  The work is part of a study to better understand the threatened species and how to protect this animal in the wild.

A U.S. Virgin Island Boa on St. Thomas slithers through the underbrush in search of food.

Dr. Peter Tolson capturing a Bimini boa hiding in a wall at night.

Dr. Peter Tolson with a Bimini boa on Bimini in the Bahamas.