Mizoram, known for the cheraw dance and its lush hilly beauty, is home to a rare species of snake as well.
Herpetologists have found the Mandarin rat snake (Euprepiophis mandarinus) in the state for the first time.
In India, Euprepiophis mandarinus has been recorded from only three localities in the Northeast and at long intervals. The three localities it has been reported from in the region are in Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.
This is the first time it has been reported from Mizoram.
The Mandarin rat snake is a rarely encountered species of the old world rat snake found in eastern Asia.
Outside India, the nearest known distribution locality of the species is in Chin Hills, Myanmar.
The scientists involved in the study are Khan Ashaharraza, V. Rangasamy, Hmar Tlawmte Lalremsanga, Lalbiakzuala, Jenny Sailo and Tom Charlton.
The study was published in the current issue of the journal, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.
The dead specimen, possibly killed with a sharp blade, was collected from the roadside, 14km north of Champhai town in Mizoram.
“Although vehicular traffic is a known threat to this species, our study has added manual killing as another evident threat that is potentially responsible for population decline of Euprepiophis mandarinus,” said Khan Ashaharraza, who works at the department of wildlife and biodiversity conservation, North Orissa University, Odisha.
He said the Euprepiophis mandarinus is a secretive species, active in the morning and early evening.
“These rat snakes evolved in tropical Asia in the late Eocene that is 56 millions years ago on this planet. This species can be easily identified by large, elliptical yellow spots, edged with broad black circles on dorsum and tail. Its lateral scales are dull grey and mixed with yellow dorsals, and the forehead has a black V-shaped pattern with a yellow spot. The eyes are small with a rounded pupil,” he said.
He said globally the species is found in many areas like China, Vietnam and eastern Asia. Hence, its International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) status is not a concern but it needs to be re-valuated as the population of the species is decreasing because of habitat loss and over-exploitation in consumption, road kill and illegal pet trade.
The study said scientific reports indicate that the population of the rat snake has declined by 30 per cent over the previous decade in China.