By K. Umashanker
Sand Boas, commonly known as Poodu Pamu or Matti Pamu in Telugu parlance, and whose value escalates each time they change hands from poachers to smugglers, are highly vulnerable to capture in the summer months and such factor, coupled with high death rate due to unbearable heat and ignorance of poachers about the feeding habits of the reptiles, has taken a toll on their already dwindling population, forest officials say.
Sand boa snakes are predominantly found in moist agriculture lands and along the river banks in the district, significantly in the eastern mandals and Kuppam division.
In spite of their resilience, the species is now on the dwindling path. Till two decades ago, there used to be number of instances when these snakes kept crawling inside huts in rural areas during rainy season, after being swept away by swirling waters. In the process, they also became victims of indiscriminate killing by people.
During the last decade, Chittoor district has been reeling under drought situation with scanty rainfall. This phenomenon has taken a toll on the survival of sand boas, coupled with the fast disappearing wetlands and drying of riverbeds, feels forest officials, who say large tracts of farm lands, the prime habitat of the reptiles, are slowly getting transformed into real estate zones.
Divisional Forest Officer (Chittoor), T. Chakrapani, said that it was a fallacy to think that sand boas were found in forest areas.
“Moist tracks and farm land are the natural habitat for sand boas. Though these species come under the Wildlife Protection Act, there are no scientific or official surveys to locate their habitats and protect them.”
In their attempts to escape from summer heat and search wetlands, boas venture into open land and dried up water sources, only to become vulnerable to poachers, he says.
The forest officials say that generally these snakes feed on silt and clay (moist earth) and insects and fungi formations. After capture, the poachers try to feed them with milk and pieces of vegetables and even beef. Unaccustomed to such diet, boas die in captivity, they point out.