Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The West Indian Boa: MAHA

Did You Know: West Indian boas (Epicrates) snakes that are found throughout the Caribbean islands. In the Major Antilles, some species are still known by their Taino name MAHA (Maja). These snakes range in size and coloration. Maha are primarily ground-dwellers, although they may also climb trees. On several Caribbean islands Maha gather at cave entrances at night, snatching bats out of the air as they exit or enter the cave. As in other boas, the Maha young feed on small animals such as lizards, whereas the large adults tend to feed on larger mammals and birds. Generally speaking, each island has a single, unique species. The exception is the island of Kiskeia (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), which has three species. The Cuba Boa is one of the largest of the boa group or genus and it is the primary predator of the hutia (Capromys Pilorides), an indigenous island rodent. Like many Maha, they are endangered today not only by natural phenomenum like hurricanes but also from deforestation. Maha also also endanger from local island residents who kill these snakes thinking they are a threat to poultry. The Maha can be seen depicted in ancient Taino art forms from stone work to wood and clay. For the ancient Taino, the Maha was not seen as an ill omen but part of the nature world with its own unique lessons to share. - - UCTP Taino News © 2009