Red Sand boa (Eryx jhonii)
English - Indian Sand Boa, John's Earth boa | Gujrati- Andhali Chakan, Damoi | Hindi- Do-muhi (famous by this name in most parts of Northern India) | Marathi- Mandil, Mandool | Malayalam- Erattathalayan, Eruthalayan, Mandalipampu, Enna pampu
Distribution All over India except Jammu Kashmir and North-East.
Status - Common, but rarely seen.
Length- This is the largest member of the Boidae family found in India (largest Boa of Genus Eryx in the world). General length is 2.5ft approx but can grow up to 4ft.
Dorsal body- - Body slender with small, keeled but shiny scales. Body color almost uniform brown, reddish brown, reddish black, chocolate brown etc in adults. Color in adults is found to be darker than in sub adults. Juveniles have reddish and blackish colored banded pattern, which is more prominent on the tail. Specimens from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujrat and Rajasthan are dark brown or blackish colored while specimens from Uttar Pradesh, Bengal are plain brown.
Ventral body- - Ventral scales are much narrower than that present on a typical snake. Belly color also depends on dorsal body color and generally same like dorsal or may be darker. Sometimes white, dark brown, orange or blackish patches present on the whole ventral surface. Subcaudal scales are unpaired and sometimes have a totally different color than the ventral scales.
Head- Head depressed in the front with smooth scales; not broader than neck. Very tough shovel shaped rostral scales present which are visible from the top also and are useful for digging temporary burrows in loose soil or sand. The eyes are small with a vertical pupil. Tongue color red.
Tail- Very small and thick tail which ends with a blunt head like tip (thus the name Two Headed Snake). It may have darker color than dorsal body.
Key characters for identification-
Look alikes- Looks like Diard Worm snake, Beaked Worm snake and few times looks like Whitaker’s Sand Boa.
- Thick body. Thickness almost same throughout the body. Uniformly brown or blackish color.
- Very thick and short blunt ended tail, which looks like the head.
Head- 10-12 Supralabials; 10-11(sometimes 12) small scales surrounding eyes.
Dorsal- Small sized keeled scales(of smooth feeling) have 53-67 rows.
Ventral- 190-213; Anal divided.
Subcaudal- 20-34; undivided.
Behavior- Red Sand Boa is a nocturnal species and spends most of its time underground; uses dry and sandy soil for burrowing and is mostly active at night. Lives in mounds, under burried bricks and rocks, rat holes, small caves, agricultural lands etc.
Behavior Very slow with almost no aggression. Due to shy behavior it like to made a coil with head inside it. On threatening try to seek loose soil to burry its body under the surface. It is not a good climber and remains on the ground only.
Feeds on rodents as favourite food, other animals include lizards and other snakes. Found to be an active predator while hunting. Suffocates its prey by muscular constriction.
Reproduction - Female gives birth to 5 to 10 live young from May to July.
Though Red Sand Boa is a widely distributed species, it is uncommon or rare in rescues. Human surrounding of gardens and agricultural lands provide a very good habitat for shelter and food supply.
It is a totally harmless & non venomous species and rarely grow more than 3ft so relocation of such an 1)small 2)slow moving 3)burrowing and 4)non-venomous species is strictly not recommended by experienced people. We should release it very close to rescue site (within 200mtr) in sandy soil only.