Folk(exp)lore 2016-03-15T14:38:18+00:00



Q) What is CITES and how do they protect snakes?

A) CITES is the acronym for the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. India is one of the participating countries. The convention came into existence in 1975 and is governed by UN. This regulates international trade in fauna and flora (including products thereof) which are listed as needing different degrees of protection and placed accordingly in different appendices.  Trade in these is not necessarily prohibited, but is governed by a strict procedure of licensing depending on the degree of protection needed.

Appendix I: Lists the most endangered species i.e. those threatened with extinction. International trade in these species is prohibited except for certain non-commercial purposes such as scientific research.

Appendix II: Lists species that, though not now threatened with extinction, may become so unless trade in them is closely controlled.

Appendix III: Lists species at the request of a country that considers co-operation of other countries necessary for their protection. Indian snakes in the appendices is are listed in the below table

Appendix IAppendix IIAppendix III
India rock python
(Python molurus molurus)
Common sand boa
(Gongylophis conicus)
Olive keelback
(Atretium schistosum)
 Red sand boa
(Eryx johnii)
Dog-faced water snake
(Cerberus rynchops)
 Whitaker’s boa
(Eryx whitakeri)
Checkered keekback
(Xenochrophis piscatar)
 Indian egg-eater
(Elachistodon westermanni)
Russell’s Viper
(Daboia russelli)
 India rat snake
(Pytas musosus)
 Monocled cobra
(Naja kaouthis)
 Spectacled cobra
(Naja naja)
 Central Asian cobra
(Naja oxiana
 King cobra
(Ophiophagus hannah)
 India rock python
(Python molurus molurus)
 Burmese python
(Python molurus bivittatus)
 Reticulated python
(Python reticulatus)


Q) What are the different groups of toxins present in snake venom?

A) The venom of a snake is not just one kind of toxin. It is cocktail of toxins with different properties and different effects on the body of the victim. These toxins are enzymes and 25 such enzymes have been isolated. The toxins are broadly as follows:

CytotoxinsDamages tissues
HaemotoxinsDamages blood cells
NeurotoxinsDamages Nervous system
MyotoxinsDamages muscles


Q) Do snakes dream?

A) Behavioral scientists say that dreaming sleep is found only in birds and mammals. Snakes see no dream.

Q) Do snakes yawn, and, if so, why?

A) Yawing is noticed fairly in other vertebrates but very rarely in snakes. Snakes do yawn, but why? Well, we still do not know for sure why we yawn. Many explanations have been offered, fatigue, boredom, nervousness, stress, greater need of oxygen intake, to cool the brain, to regulate body temperature, contagious behavior (Seeing others). This list seems to be endless. Is it any wonder then that we know nothing about why snakes yawn?

Q) Which snakes are the most remarkable bluffers?

A) Some snakes, when cornered by a predator or enemy, may stage various displays to scare them away or put them off. Some may inflate their body to make themselves, appear larger than they are. Some may raise their fore body, flatten their neck or head in an imitation of the cobra. Some may open their mouth wide to appear in a grotesque (Ugly). Some may hiss. But the star performers are the wood snakes from West Indies, the grass snakes from Europe, parts if North Africa and Asia and the hognose snakes found nearly all the North America and parts of Canada and Mexico. While others bluffers are mostly ‘one trick ponies’, these snakes have a whole repertoire ‘up their sleeves’

The West Indian wood snake like the Cuban boa and the Haitian wood snake are small boas which, in order to escape unwanted attention, will roll themselves up tightly. They will then release a foul-smelling fluid from their cloacal glands to make it seem that they are long dead and are fast putrefying. If even this does not put off the visitor, they will voluntarily rupture the capillaries in their head and make blood ooze into their eyes and out of their mouth, thus accentuating the cadaver effect (or so they believe). This rare faculty is known as AUTOHAEMORRHAGY.