English Name : Common Sand boa
Scientific Name: Gongylophis conics
Family : Boidae
Tamil Name: Mann Pambu
Description: This snake is short and thick bodied with a blunt tail. Its color with reddish brown, yellowish white, dark brown or black with large irregular usually bark brown black edged blotches that are connected on the back. Underside is yellowish white.
Distribution and status: Throughout India (Excluding the North East, Andaman & Nicobar islands and Lakshadweep). A fairly common snake occurring from the base of Himalayas to the extreme south of India and Sri Lanka and west of Bihar to Bengal in the North East.
Habitat Often occurring in sandy areas and will bask in the morning sunshine in the soil. Young are mistaken for saw scaled vipers while adults are mistaken for Russell’s viper or baby pythons. It will enlarge its body as a means of self defense. It kills most prey by constriction. It sometimes hunts by ambush by burying itself in sand until a bird or snake comes within striking range.
Habits: Mainly nocturnal but will hunt by day. While some bite with the least provocation others when irritated sulk in a most determined manner remaining quite motionless and refusing to offer any resistance as in other species of snakes. Though considered by many as poisonous this is subterranean it spends most of its time above the soil. The organ of vision that is the eye is well developed as a sense organ.
Food. It feeds mainly on small mammals particularly rodents. Frogs are occasionally taken but reptiles are not usually acceptable. Like other boas it kills by constriction and eats only when the animal is dead. Sometimes Common Sand Boa may mimic a Russell’s viper when disturbed.
Life cycle: In southern India mating occurs in November and females give birth to 6-8 live young (Ovoviviparous) in May – July.
Role in the environment: The major prey species is rodents hence they could be considered as a friend of the farmer. It is an important predator in the forest ecosystem.
Photo source: Dr. J. Subramanean