Western Stripe-bellied Sand Snake

Psammophis subtaeniatus

One of the most exciting and memorable sightings of our Easter trip to the Kruger National Park took place right in front of the reception office at Shingwedzi Rest Camp. We watched as a Western Stripe-bellied Sand Snake (aka Western Yellow-bellied Sand Snake) stalked, caught, killed and swallowed a skink – the whole episode playing out within perhaps ten minutes at the most.

This was a fairly large specimen of this slender species, which grows to around a metre in length. Western Stripe-bellied Sand Snakes are strictly diurnal, equally at home on the ground or in low trees and shrubs, and extremely fast moving. Aside from lizards they will also prey on frogs, small birds and rodents, which they dispatch with a dose of mild venom (not lethal to humans though).

Females lay between 4 and 10 eggs in summer, and probably lives for between 5 and 10 years in the wild.

The Western Stripe-bellied Sand Snake is described as widespread and common by the IUCN, which considers it to be of least concern. It is distributed from southern Angola and northern Namibia through to Swaziland and South Africa (North West, Limpopo, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and possibly northern Kwazulu-Natal), occurring in a variety of savanna types and being especially closely associated with mopane veld (such as which occurs around Shingwedzi).

While visiting Marakele National Park over Easter in 2019, we encountered another Western Stripe-bellied Sand Snake at the Thutong Environmental Education Centre, and watched as it searched, this time unsuccessfully, for a lizard to catch.

This Western Stripe-bellied Sand Snake visited our tent at Tlopi in the Marakale National Park during a visit in February 2021:

Western Stripe-bellied Sand Snake at our tent

While staying at Shingwedzi Rest Camp in the Kruger National Park in June 2019, a Western Stripe-bellied Sand Snake came to visit us at our campsite – seems Shingwedzi is a really good place to go looking for this species!

We were parked at a Leopard sighting while visiting the Kruger National Park in December 2021 when Marilize noticed this Western Stripe-bellied Sand Snake in a bush next to our car.

Western Stripe-bellied Sand Snake (photo by Joubert)

In July 2022 we visited Marakele National park and Tlopi Tented Camp again, and were delighted to find another Western Stripe-belllied Sand Snake guarding our tent again.



20 thoughts on “Western Stripe-bellied Sand Snake

  1. Pingback: Easter in Kruger | de Wets Wild

    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Absolutely the best option to play on the safe side, Maralee, and treat them all with caution if you are unsure. Luckily for us the really venomous snakes we have are easy to identify – mambas, cobras, boomslang & adders all very distinct.


  2. BETH

    In Texas, I grew up seeing such things, but never liked the process. However, if the snake took out a rat, that was OK. I hated rats.


    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Our snakes must be much more “discreet” at mealtime, Beth, as we don’t often encounter them in the process of swallowing their prey. You were very lucky to see it happen often!


  3. kim blades, writer

    Hi guys, brilliant photos again of my favourite place, KNP! I have also seen the Western stripe-bellied sand snake at Shingwedi camp, but just sunning itself on some rocks. The most memorable sighting at Shingwedzi was seeing a leopard lying, awake, along a tree branch, just the other side of the camp fence, very near our hut.


  4. John

    Very beautiful snake, it reminds little about a corn snake on the colors. Really nice photos you took of the snake, and even managed to shoot it when it took a prey!😊



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