Indore: A rare snake, dubbed as 'double-headed wonder' found in Malwa and Nimar regions, has become a sought- after reptile for animal couriers, who make huge profits smuggling it to international markets and selling it as aphrodisiacs.
A DNA investigation into the modus operandi of the racket - involving snake charmers, smugglers and international buyers — reveals that the snake purchased from locals at meagre sums fetches over several crores of rupees in markets like China and Thailand.
Chaklon, the rare species of snake leaves people guessing heads or tails. Snake charmers of the city displayed the wonderful snake to DNA, claiming that even a glimpse would cost around `500.
A local animal trafficker who operates with a fake name, Sajjad, said, "Indore is a major hub of Chaklon — fetching anything from `3.5 lakh to `25 lakh in India. The profits multiply in foreign countries where it is used in medicines claiming to improve sex life."
Chaklon is found in dry, semi-desert scrub plains and rocky dry foothills of the Malwa Plateau and Nimar plains. In the grey market it is called 'rassi' or rope", he said."From Siliguri it is sent to Nepal border Panitanki- Kagarbeta. Nepal is the route and Hong Kong international transit point. China and Thailand are the major buying destinations," said the animal courier.
Chief Conservator Forest (CCF) PC Dubey said, "These snakes create illusion of two heads. They have evolved so that other predators can't tell whether the serpents are coming or going.""The chimera has spawned many myths and some people get fooled into paying fabulous sums. It is also purportedly used for medicinal value," agreed the forester.
The forest department has been trying to crack open the rackets, but lack of staff and equipment hamper the operations, he added.
The snake traffickers have also turned internet-savvy, Dubey said adding the net is used to strike deals.
Website Agrispace features an advertisement posted by one Tejkaran with email- tej.karan18gmail.com. The offer states: Chaklon— double headed snake, brown colour and weight- 3kg 700 gms. Price `4 crore. Location- Rajasthan, India.
Biologists believe that the smugglers have been duping their international customers by projecting the snake as having two heads. Noted biologist Dr NS Dhakad said, "I have never heard of any such thing. The idea of having a head at opposite ends of an animal is biologically impossible." An animal with bilateral symmetry needs to have a certain polar orientation (ie: a distinct head vs. anus) in order to develop as a viable embryo, he added.
However, snake charmers have a different story to tell. Kabira- an octogenarian snake charmer insists, "Chaklon has heads at both ends. It uses one head for six months, while the other remains small and dysfunctional during that period and vice versa".