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.