Guntur: The Guntur forest department officials seized three Red Sand Boa snakes and nabbed four persons in Guntur city, Andhra Pradesh.

The arrested have been identified as Vanarchi Kondaiah (21) and Varanchi Budubuduka Chinna Sukali (75) from Adoni in Kurnool district and Shaik Jilani (26), a student, and Shaik Nagoor Vali (26)from Nakirekallu in Guntur district.

The district forest officer of Guntur, N. Rama Chandra Rao, said they arrested the four men when they were trying to sell the snakes. The gang used to sell snakes for crores of rupees by telling people they would get rich if they kept such snakes at home. However, it is still not clear where they got the snakes. "We are also trying to find out if they had sold snakes to anyone in the past," he added.

An investigation is underway and the officials will book the accused under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Wildlife Protection Act. They will be produced before the court.

The forest officials also said that the Red Sand Boa or Indian Sand Boa (Eryx Johnii) is native to India, Pakistan, and Iran. Sand Boas are non-venomous and nocturnal and spend a majority of their time underground. Unlike most snakes, its tail is almost as thick as the body and it gives the appearance of being "double-headed". They can grow up to 2-2.5 feet and are found in dry, semi-desert scrub plains and rocky dry foothills.

Red Sand Boa 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. It supports farmers by reducing crop damages by rodents.

They are protected under Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and Appendix II of CITES. In January 2021, TRAFFIC India and WWF-India launched the "Owning is Stealing" online campaign to raise awareness about the illegal trade in Red Sand Boa in India.

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