Holy blindsnakes! The Brahminy could make Malta home (relax… it’s not venomous)

Invasive burrowing snake that rarely comes to the surface has been imported to Malta probably from soil deposits

The Brahminy blindsnake rarely comes to the surface
The Brahminy blindsnake rarely comes to the surface

The University of Malta’s Conservation Biology Research Group has reported the first two records of the Brahminy blindsnake, or Indotyphlops braminus, officially a new alien species in Malta.

This species, native to Indo-Malayan region, has over the years broadened its distribution through anthropogenic international transportation of goods.

Even of more concern to ophidiaphobes is that its unique parthenogenic reproductive strategy increases its potential for fast population expansion, becoming invasive.

Due to its habitat preferences and also its reproductive biology, extra care must be taken to detect the Brahminy blindsnake which can easily go unnoticed and establish populations wherever it is unintentionally transported to.

The two specimens were identified as part of an ongoing conservation research funded by the BioCon Innovate Research Fund for Excellence awarded to Prof. Adriana Vella. The snake’s genetic sequences were compared to other data from other locations.

But this small snake is actually a burrowing non-venomous snake which rarely comes to the surface, and the habitat it lives in allows easy undetected transportation of specimens between different locations mostly between areas associated with plant nurseries, golf courses, compost deposits, agricultural farms and gardens including domestic gardens, botanical gardens and parks.

Prof. Vella said that a better control strategy on exotic species importations should be in place to prevent costly eradication management of invasive species. “Application of risk analysis on any potential bio-invasion associated with pet, crop, plant, tree species importation and their associated pathogens and pests has been increasingly advocated due to globalisation of trade in biological resources.”

Malta’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan highlights four measures to prevent the introduction of alien species that may be invasive and also have early detection and control mechanisms in place to control their invasiveness.

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