Spotted in Seshachalam hill ranges, it is found to be of colubridae family, but has strikingly different features from its nearest species ‘coluber gracilis’

Forest Department officials have stumbled upon at least four varieties of snakes in the Seshachalam hill ranges that have never been sighted or reported here in the past.

Of the four, the latest one sighted on July 16 at Kapila Theertham forest abutting the city flabbergasted the researchers and officials. It is found to be of colubridae family and ‘coluber’ genera, but has strikingly different features from its nearest species ‘coluber gracilis’, which too was sighted last in Pune district of Maharashtra and Asirgarh of Madhya Pradesh, but never in southern India.

The declaration of Seshachalam as a biosphere reserve has paved the way for enumeration of rare and endemic flora and fauna, before initiating steps for their conservation.

Species identified

So far, the Forest Department has identified 27 species of snakes, 12 types of lizards and 13 amphibians. In the last two months alone, slender coral snake (calliophis melanurus) of the elapidae family, brown vine snake (ahaetulla puverulenta) of colubridae family and Eliot’s shieldtail (uropeltis elliot) of the uropeltidae family were sighted.

Famed researchers Romulus Whitaker and Ashok Captain, in their work ‘Snakes of India’, have described the slender coral snake as endemic to all southern States except Andhra Pradesh, besides Maharashtra, West Bengal and Gujarat. The brown viper is reported to be endemic to the Western Ghats, but the latest find in Seshachalam is the first to be reported in the Eastern Ghats. Similarly, the Eliot’s shieldtail is also found in the Western Ghats (from Goa to Tirunelveli), Madhya Pradesh and in Andhra-Orissa border. The first sighting in Andhra Pradesh was in Araku valley long back and the latest in Seshachalam is only the second. - Staff Reporter