Saturday, April 4, 2015

Sand Boas Threatened by Poaching and Habitat Loss

The sand boa population in Andhra Pradesh is decreasing

Forest officials have recently indicated that sand boas are falling prey to poachers and wildlife smugglers during summer months, which are known to lead to a high mortality rate because of intolerable heat coupled with ignorance of the snakes' captors about their feeding habits. These incidents have been found in the eastern mandals and the town of Kuppam in Andhra Pradesh's Chittoor district, where the sand boas make their home in moist agriculture land and along river banks. Although the snakes are resilient, their population is now decreasing. Until twenty years ago, there used to be several occasions when the sand boas would crawl inside rural huts during the monsoon season after being swept away by floods. In the process, they also suffered from random killing by the people. During the last ten years, Chittoor district has been staggering under drought situation with insufficient rainfall. This experience has dramatically affected the survival of sand boas, along with rapidly disappearing wetlands and drying riverbeds. Forest officials further added that large plots of farm land, which are the main habitat for the snakes, are slowly being converted into real estate zones. Divisional Forest Officer T. Chakrapani stated that although the sand boas are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, there have never been any official or scientific surveys to pinpoint their habitats and protect them. He further added that the boas venture out into the open land and dried up water sources to escape the summer heat and look for wetlands, which makes them vulnerable to poachers. After being captured, the poachers would feed the sand boas milk, pieces of vegetables, and even beef which results in the snakes dying in captivity. Such incidents of these snakes being captured are ignored due to total lack of surveillance mechanism.

It is extremely disturbing that sand boas are being captured by poachers and there has never been any undertaking of scientific or official survey to locate their key habitats in order to protect them. These boas, like most species of snakes, play an important role in controlling the rodent population which is beneficial for farmers. When they become captured by poachers and fed inadequate diet, they perish in the heartless hands of their captors which can become problematic to farmers and other people in rural areas who rely on growing crops for their livelihood. To further add to the problem, large tracts of farmland which provide adequate habitat for these snakes are being converted into real estate zones. With the sand boa population in decline, it is highly crucial to conduct proper scientific surveys to locate any available habitat in order to protect these snakes and at the same time target poachers or anybody suspected of carrying the boas. In addition, rural communities should be educated about the importance of sand boas and other snakes to prevent indiscriminate killings. They must also be encouraged to help authorities locate where poachers have been sighted in order to prevent any further decline in the population.

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