IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


31st August, 2023 Environment

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  • The report by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)-India sheds light on the alarming trend of illegal trade involving the Red Sand Boa (Eryx johnii) in India.


Key findings and insights from the report

Incidents of Illegal Trade

  • Between the years 2016 and 2021, WCS-India documented 172 incidents of seizures related to the illegal trade of Red Sand Boas.

Distribution of Incidents

  • The illegal trade of Red Sand Boas was reported in 18 Indian states and one Union Territory, covering a broad geographic range.

Conservation Status

  • The Red Sand Boa is classified as 'Near Threatened' by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to a decreasing population trend across its habitat range.

Reasons for Illegal Trade

  • The report highlights two main drivers of the illegal trade in Red Sand Boas: the demand in the pet trade and their use in black magic practices.
  • The species' unique appearance and perceived mystical properties contribute to its desirability.

Role of Social Media

  • Social media platforms, particularly YouTube, play a significant role in facilitating the illegal trade of Red Sand Boas.

Conservation Recommendations

  • The report suggests that local and international conservation organizations should conduct formative research to gain a deeper understanding of the illegal reptile trade and the demand driving it.
  • This research could inform more effective conservation strategies and interventions.

Red Sand Boa (Eryx johnii) - A Comprehensive Overview

  • The Red Sand Boa (Eryx johnii) is a non-venomous snake species belonging to the Boidae family.
  • It is widely distributed across the Indian subcontinent, including regions like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and parts of Bangladesh.
  • Known for its distinctive appearance and relatively docile nature, the Red Sand Boa is a popular species in the exotic pet trade.

Physical Characteristics

Size: Red Sand Boas are relatively small snakes, with adult lengths typically ranging between 40 to 60 centimeters (16 to 24 inches), although some individuals can grow slightly larger.

Coloration: As the name suggests, these boas exhibit a reddish-brown to pale pink coloration on their upper side, which helps them blend into their sandy habitats. They have a lighter belly and a distinct contrast between the dorsal and ventral colors.

Body Shape: Red Sand Boas have a robust, cylindrical body with a short, stubby tail. They have smooth scales and a slightly flattened head.

Eyes and Nostrils: These boas possess small, prominent eyes with vertical pupils. They also have nostrils that are positioned on the top of their snout, allowing them to breathe while partially buried in sand.

Habitat and Distribution

Red Sand Boas are primarily found in arid and semi-arid regions. They prefer habitats with loose, sandy soil that allows them to burrow effectively. These snakes are commonly found in areas with scrublands, deserts, and rocky terrains.

Behavior and Diet

Burrowing: Red Sand Boas are well-adapted to their subterranean lifestyle. They are excellent burrowers, using their specialized head shape and strong body to create tunnels in loose sand. These burrows provide them protection from extreme temperatures and predators.

Nocturnal: These snakes are predominantly nocturnal, meaning they are most active during the night. They emerge from their burrows in search of prey and to regulate their body temperature.

Diet: Red Sand Boas are carnivorous and primarily feed on small mammals like rodents, as well as birds and their eggs. They are known to ambush their prey from their burrows and use constriction to subdue it.


Red Sand Boas are ovoviviparous, meaning that they give birth to live young instead of laying eggs. After a gestation period of several months, the female gives birth to a small number of offspring, usually between 2 to 10, depending on factors like the female's size and health.


The WCS-India report underscores the urgent need for stronger enforcement and conservation efforts to combat the illegal trade of Red Sand Boas. Given their status as a 'Near Threatened' species and their significant presence in illegal trade markets, collaborative actions are necessary to curb this illicit trade and protect the species from further population declines.


Q. Which of the following statements about the Red Sand Boa (Eryx johnii) is/are correct?

1.The Red Sand Boa is a venomous snake species found in tropical rainforests.

2.Red Sand Boas are known for their bright red coloration, which serves as a warning signal.

3.The Red Sand Boa is a non-venomous snake that is often mistaken for a venomous snake due to its appearance.

4.Red Sand Boas are active during the day and can be frequently seen basking in the sun.


A.      1 and 2 only

B.      3 only

C.      2 and 4 only

D.      3 and 4 only

Answer: B