WCS-India report flags illegal trade of red sand boa

WCS-India report flags illegal trade of red sand boa

WCS-India report flags illegal trade of red sand boa


According to a report by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)-India, there were 172 instances of red sand boa (Eryx johnii) seizures between 2016 and 2021.

The paper, titled “Illegal Trade of Red Sand Boa in India 2016-2021,” was put together by the WCS-India Counter Wildlife Trafficking team and compiles data from media reports on the seizures.

What do we know about Red Sand Boa?

Taxonomy and Distribution:

  • Belongs to the family Boidae’s subfamily Erycinae.
  • Located in India, Pakistan, and Iran.
  • No known subspecies.

Common Names:

  • Indian sand boa
  • John’s sand boa
  • Iruthalai nagam
  • Mannuli pambu
  • Red sand boa
  • Brown sand boa


The specific name “johnii” pays tribute to German scientist Christoph Samuel John, who worked in India.


  • Adults rarely measure more than 2-3 feet long.
  • adapted to dig underground.
  • elongated head with narrow nostrils and small eyes.
  • Dorsal scales on the cylindrical body are polished.
  • A rounded, blunt tail that looks truncated.
  • The colour ranges from pale yellow-tan to reddish brown.

Geographic Range:

  • Found throughout western, southern, and northwestern India as well as from Iran to Pakistan.
  • Type locality: Tanjore, Tamil Nadu, India (Tranquebar).
  • Known as the “Mandul snake,” it is also present in the Indian desert and Maharashtra.
  • Habitat: Found in rocky, semi-desert hillsides and dry, scrubby plains.
  • prefers to burrow in loose, sandy soil.


  • Preys primarily on rodents and other animals, such as rats and mice.
  • kills prey by strangling it.
  • Some snakes may only consume other snakes for food.


  • Ovoviviparous species reproduce by giving birth to live young.
  • Females can give birth to up to 14 babies at once.
  • From the end of summer till the monsoon, babies are born.


  • Snake species with very calm behaviour.
  • adapted for life underground.

Illegal Trade and Conservation:

  • Snakes are believed to have supernatural abilities in superstitious cultures.
  • Some people think it may treat diseases like AIDS or bring luck.
  • Due to these attitudes and illicit trafficking, endangered.
  • Schedule IV of India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, protects this species.

What is the way forward in protecting these animals?

  • Awareness and Education:
      •  Launch public awareness efforts to inform populations about the significance of these creatures for the environment and dispel superstitious notions.
      • Encourage people to recognize that these species are essential to keeping ecosystems in balance.
  • Consolidating the Law:
      • Increase penalties for unlawful trade while enforcing already-existing rules and regulations governing animal protection, such as India’s Animal Protection Act.
      • Encourage the passage of laws that are more stringently enforced and ensure the protection of wildlife.
  • Community Engagement:
      • Engage the community in conservation initiatives by emphasizing the advantages of preserving these creatures and their habitats for future generations.
      • Encourage the reporting of illegal activity and include neighbourhood residents in wildlife monitoring initiatives.
  • Habitat Preservation:
    • Protecting and restoring these species’ native habitats will help to maintain the viability and suitability of their habitat.
    • Create and protect sanctuaries or protected places that are off-limits to human disturbance and unlawful trade.