THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The red sand boa, commonly believed to be the mythical ‘double-headed serpent’ because of a blunt tail that looks like a head, is the latest target of animal traffickers. On July 8, the city zoo lost its huge sand boa, to a gang of professional thieves. This red sand boa was, in fact, rescued a couple of weeks ago from a gang at Nedumangad who were trying to smuggle out the animal.
Exactly a month ago, forest officials at Hyderabad had nabbed a gang with a sand boa that weighed nearly 3 kg. At least 6 such cases were reported from Chittoor district alone. The Doddballapur Rural police, on a tip-off, had rescued a red sand boa being illegally sold for an amount of Rs 3 lakh near Bangalore.
Ten wildlife traders were arrested on May 7 in Palakkad district by the Forest Department, and two red sand boas were among the items seized by the authorities. There are innumerable cases that go undetected.
Sources said that the ‘double-headed’ snakes are being smuggled to China, South East Asia and Gulf countries via Chennai and Bangalore. The trade is said to involve crores of rupees. While the snakes are being bought for anything from Rs 25,000 upwards, they are sold for lakhs and crores depending on the size - the bigger ones cost more. But all attempts to find the final buyers may be just futile - they remain invisible, no one knows who they are.
There is a superstition that the blood of the boas brings fortune to the keeper.
But, there is much more to the boasmuggling than the ‘bringing-fortune’ story that is doing the rounds. The increasing demand and exorbitant rates that are being paid for this animal are mainly because of its supposedly supernatural powers. The source of this supernatural power is a wacky story.
The smugglers claim that there was a meteor shower in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, South Andhra Pradesh and South Karnataka between 1000 AD and 1300 AD and that an isotope of iridium that fell on the earth is being accumulated in the tissues of sand boa.
This ‘bio-iridium’ is supposed to give magical and supernatural properties to the animal and that the extract from the snake can cure several chronic diseases like AIDS. This extract and even the blood of the snake find a place in the illegal trade as they are used as an aphrodisiac in Gulf countries. ``Not all sand boas are being hunted. Only those that weigh above two kg fetch money. The ones that are usually seen in the State are only about 400 gm to 500 gm in weight. So, we were actually surprised to see such a huge one as the one brought here from Nedumangad,’’ said zoo veterinarian Dr Joe Jacob Sebastian.
There are also several beliefs that the bio-iridium from the snake can actually work as a rice-puller, attracting rice to it and also for expanding water.
Whether it attracts rice or whether it attracts fortune, the sand boas are definitely attracting a lot of misfortune to themselves.