India

Indian 'two-headed snake' rescued by police from gang

Red sand boa
Image caption Many believe the "two-headed" snake brings good luck to its owners

India police say they have seized a rare snake, known as a "two-headed" red sand boa, from illegal smugglers.

The red sand boa is a protected species, and looks like it has two heads, because its tail is shaped like its head to help it defend itself.

The snake is prized on the black market because many believe it brings good luck or has medicinal qualities.

Police in Bangalore arrested four people trying to sell the protected creature for $1,500 (£1,100).

Police said plain clothes officers had organised a sting by pretending to be interested buyers.

'Good luck charm'

The market for the "two-headed" red sand boas was "basically another form of cheating", PS Harsha, the local deputy commissioner of police, said.

"It is invariably used to cheat people who have some belief that it will act as good luck charm."

Sharath Babu, a wildlife warden in Bangalore's Urban district, said "it is a fallacy that it has two heads... the head and tail of the snake look alike, so if anyone tries to catch it, it strikes from the other end which is the head".

Thanks to the superstition that the red sand boa will bring its owner treasure, demand for the snake is high, with people even hiring them out for ceremonies, Mr Babu told BBC Hindi.

"It is even used for conducting rituals that would bring in rain or money. It is even believed that the heavier the snake, the more riches it will bring. So, the black market dealers shove ball bearings and other objects into the snakes. These animals die a very painful death."

Luckily for this particular snake, though, it was rescued - and has now been set free in the Bannerghatta Biological Park on the outskirts of Bangalore.

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