The alleged medical properties of the sand boa snake has led to a spate in instances of its illegal trade in Bihar, putting the species to the risk of extinction.
A dozen cases of trapping and smuggling of this rare snake species have come to light, in the past three months. In several such cases, people have been arrested for trying to smuggle the snake to Nepal for sale in South East Asia and even Western countries, where it fetch lots of money.
The boa found in sand is used for making medicines for restoring sexual virility and curing paralysis and intractable skin diseases, making cosmetics and for use in black magic rituals. Its skin is used in the leather industry to make purses, handbags and jackets.
On Sunday, the 47th battalion of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), arrested a person from Islampur, close to Indo-Nepal border, later identified as Mohammad Ali of Kalibagh under Town police station of West Champaran. He was carrying a sand boa concealed in a wooden box. It was the third seizure of the reptile within the month.
Earlier, the SSB seized the snakes of this species at Ramnagar in Bagaha and Bargania of Sitamarhi.
The red sand boa is protected under Schedule 4 of the Wild Life Protection Act of 1972 and is on the endangered list. It is the most traded the reptile species in India, which includes the common Indian sand boa, red sand boa and brown sand boa.
With a huge demand for its skin, each snake is traded for Rs 5-10 lakh in the local market. Red sand boa’s prices go up to Rs 1.5 crore in the international market. As per a smuggler, the price of sand boas depends on their weight.
Deputy commandant of 12th battalion of SSB (Kishanganj) Kumar Sundaram said, "Sand boa is found in many pockets of south India. Poaching and sale of red sand boas is prohibited by the Wildlife Protection Act. Their cost varies (depending on the customer and intended use), he added.
Forest officials said, many celebrities, astrologers and businessmen from certain business communities even keep the snake at home for good luck and protection. The red sand boa is informally known as the two-headed snake, as its tail resembles its head, a survival feature to protect itself against predators