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Red Sand Boa UPSC NOTE

 

Red Sand Boa

  • Red Sand Boa Eryx johnii, commonly called the Indian Sand Boa, is a non-venomous species found throughout the dry parts of the Indian subcontinent. 

  • It is a primarily reddish-brown and thick-set snake that grows to an average length of 75 cm.

  • Unlike most snakes, the tail is almost as thick as the body and gives the reptile the appearance of being "double-headed".

  • Largest of the sand boas in the world.

  • Ovoviviparous

  • Nocturnal and spends the majority of its time under the ground.

  • It is easily recognizable due to its shovel-shaped nose and a blunt tail which appears to be chopped off.

  • Like other snake species, the Red Sand Boa also plays a significant role in the ecosystem by maintaining a healthy population between prey and predator. 

  • It feeds on rodents, lizards, and even other snakes.

Conservation:

  • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule IV

  • CITES: Appendix II

  • IUCN: Near threatened 

  • Therefore, collection, trade or utilization of the species is prohibited in India. 

  • Its international trade is further restricted under CITES.

Threats:

  • The sighting rates for Red Sand Boa are reported to have declined over the years.  

  • Threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation.

  • Threatened by human-wildlife conflict.

  • Due to its benign nature, Red Sand Boa is easy to collect and smuggle. The price is determined as per its weight. 

  • The smugglers have often been reported to feed this snake steel bullet or lead balls to increase its weight.

  • New age superstitions are reported to be a major driver of the illegal trade of the species. Such as:

    • bringing good luck to their keepers,

    • claiming that the snake contains rare elements that are highly expensive and have supernatural powers.

  • Cyberspace has further fueled its illegal trade, making it easier for buyers and sellers to connect. 

  • Posts related to the sale and purchase of Red Sand Boa have been observed on various online trading platforms, where it is popularly known as a 'double engine'.

  • YouTube serves as a buyer-seller-interface for red sand boas in India, and sometimes acts as a gateway to facilitate trade via WhatsApp.

  • Besides this, Red Sand Boa is also poached for its medicinal values by local communities.

Recent report by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)-India:

  • WCS-India has pointed out 172 incidents of seizures of red sand boa (Eryx johnii) between the years 2016-2021.

  • The report points out that incidents of illegal sand boa trade were documented in 18 States and one Union Territory, covering 87 districts across India. 

  • The highest number was recorded in Maharashtra (59), often from urban areas such as the districts of Pune (11), Thane (nine), Raigad (seven), and Mumbai Suburban (five). 

  • The second highest number was recorded from Uttar Pradesh (33), often from regions in proximity to the international border with Nepal, such as the districts of Bahraich (eight) and Lakhimpur-Kheri (seven).


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