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".

Interesting facts

  • Largest of the sand boas in the world.
  • Non-venomous
  • Ovoviviparous
  • Nocturnal and spends the majority of its time under the ground.

You can identify it!
It is easily recognizable due to its shovel-shaped nose and a blunt tail which appears to be chopped off.

Ecologically important
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. 

Legally protected
Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule IV
CITES: Appendix II

Therefore, collection, trade or utilization of the species is prohibited in India. Its international trade is further restricted under CITES.

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

Threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation
This is mainly due to the expansion of human settlements and activities.

Threatened by human-wildlife conflict
Due to the general ignorance among people about snakes, their ecological role and the laws related to their protection, Red Sand Boas are often exterminated due to perceived threats from them.   

Threatened by illegal wildlife trade
Till a few years back, the Red Sand Boa did not face any severe threat other than being popular with the snake charmers who displayed it as a "double-headed" snake. However, now this morphological curiosity has landed this harmless snake in serious trouble. In recent years, India has witnessed a massive upsurge in demand for Red Sand Boas in its illegal domestic market.

New age superstitions are reported to be a major driver of the illegal trade of the species. These range from the more common ones, such as bringing good luck to their keepers, to the more bizarre ones like claiming that the snake contains rare elements that are highly expensive and have supernatural powers.

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. The snakes are not just sold but also rented out for hefty sums. Furthermore, the demand for these snakes is so high that they are also reported to be stolen from zoos across India.

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'.

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

You can help!

Please report poaching and illegal trade of protected wildlife to the office of the forest department, police, or Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB).

You can also help by creating awareness about the species. Follow and share this information on FACEBOOK, TWITTER to create awareness about Red Sand Boa and to help #EndWildlifeTrafficking