HYDERABAD: About two weeks ago, when a snake entered the compound of a residence in BHEL, Patancheru, neither did the frightened residents nor the passersby knew that they were witnessing a snake supposed to have been extinct since 1969. When they were about to kill it, J Srinivas, a member of the Friends of Snake Society, reached the site and rescued the snake which was later identified as Indian Egg-eating snake or Indian Egg-eater (Elachistodon westermanni).
The discovery of this species of snake is the first record for Telangana, i.e., this was never known to exist here. Also, Patancheru is currently the southernmost point in the Indian sub-continent where this species is now known to occur.
This rare species was thought to be extinct in 1969, as listed in IUCN Red List Data; however it was rediscovered at Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand in 2003. Since then, this species was documented from very few parts (only 16 other locations) of Central western and Northern India.
The species due to its rare occurrence is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, along with Pythons.
“Currently, we are studying this specimen to scientifically document and gain more knowledge about its behaviour and needs. We can effectively conserve this rare species only when we have extensive knowledge about it,” said Avinash Visvanathan, General Secretary, Friends of Snakes Society in a release. After the study and scientific documentation, the organisation would relocate the reptile, in its probable home range, under the expert guidance of the Telangana Forest Department.
A Non-poisonous Snake
Indian Egg-eater is a small, non-venomous snake growing to less than three feet, with dark brown colouration. It also has a yellow band running down the spine. Not much is known about its behaviour. It is certainly a nocturnal species, active during nights. It is terrestrial, however shows characteristics of an arboreal specimen too. They exclusively feed on bird eggs. A specialised vertebral projection, hypapophysis, breaks the ingested egg and the yolk is pushed inward with the peristaltic movement of the oesophagus. Once the entire yolk is ingested, the remaining shell is regurgitated.