Envis Centre, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India

Printed Date: Saturday, April 13, 2024

Rare Indian egg-eater snake gets rarer due to several road kills








Over 60 rare Indian egg-eater snakes (Elachistodon westermanni), which is listed under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972) and declared as 'Least Concern' species by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), have been reported in the nine districts of the state, eight of which are of Vidarbha. Shockingly, around 40 snakes were found dead in road kills.



The egg-eater snake was believed to have gone extinct until 2003 when city-based herpetologist Parag Dandge rediscovered it in the region after 100 years. In 2008, Dandge along with researcher Ashish Tiple, started working on a research to study the population distribution, feeding behaviour, threats and implication for conservation of the species in Central India. Their research has now been published in the Russian Journal of Herpetology.



"Indian egg-eater is widely distributed in the state. But we recorded maximum number of specimens in the region," said Tiple. He added that the species was also recorded in Telangana.



Out of 66 specimens that were observed in different areas of Maharashtra and Telangana, 40 were found to be road kills. "Being a nocturnal species, it frequently gets crushed under heavy vehicles while crossing the road," said Dandge. While surveying the outer ring road of Khapri Naka to Hingna, 17 road killed specimens were recorded in one month.



During the survey, another important aspect that came to the fore was that the snake habitat is severely threatened by illegal brick kilns and urbanization. "Shrub lands, which are the main habitat of Indian egg-eater snake, are being utilized for commercial, industrial and agricultural uses. many illegal brick kilns have also come up at some places," said the researchers.



As per the research, the species is unique and feeds on bird eggs. "They have very specific feeding habits and eat only passerine bird eggs. Food source is limited as birds lay eggs only in specific seasons. The overall activity of these snakes depends on breeding seasons of small-sized bird species," said Dandge. He added that when birds change their habitats due to disturbance caused by humans, the habitat of Indian egg-eater also gets threatened.




Seeing the species's importance in maintaining biological balance, the researchers have demanded to declare it as the 'state snake'. "It is a flagship species which plays an important role in controlling bird population. The forest department should take its conservation seriously. Identifying genuine snake-charmers and licencing them is a must," they said.





Source: The Times of India