A team of biodiversity researchers has discovered a new species of ‘cat snake’ in Maharashtra’s Western Ghats —making it the first such discovery in 125 years. The species has been named ‘Thackeray’s cat snake’, (scientific name Boiga thackerayi), after Tejas Thackeray — younger son of Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray — who was part of the research team.
Tejas’ elder brother and Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray posted a picture of the snake on Twitter. “Boiga thackerayi sp. nov —Thackeray’s cat snake, a new species with Tiger like stripes on its body from the Sahyadri tiger reserve in Maharashtra!”
“My brother, Tejas discovered this beautiful species of the snake in the Western Ghats! Hence the name,” he added in another tweet. “The first Boiga to be described from the western ghats in 125 years! Known to feed exclusively on tree frogs & their eggs,” Aaditya added.
Dr Varad Giri, director, Foundation for Biodiversity Conservation, who led the study, said: “Western Ghats is explored for higher vertebrates…This new species, Thackeray’s cat snake (Boiga thackerayi) is named after researcher Tejas Thackeray for his contributions towards the studies on freshwater crabs in India, especially northern Western Ghats and his strong and unconditional support towards taxonomy of less charismatic species.”
The paper was published Thursday in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. The new species is non-venomous and is known to grow up to 890 mm (approximately 3 feet) in length. It is active at night and is known to feed on the eggs of Humayun’s Night Frog, Giri said, adding, “This behaviour was never reported in cat snakes from the Western Ghats before.”
Interestingly, this snake also favours only arboreal frogs, which is also a unique behaviour. The new species is only known in a few localities near Koyna in Satara district, but could be widely distributed, said the study.
Other than Tejas Thackeray, scientists from various institutes collaborated in making this discovery. While Dr Giri led this study, taxonomist Ashok Captain, Dr V Deepak of London’s Natural History Museum, Kolhapur-based naturalist Swapnil Pawar and Dr Frank Tillack from Berlin’s Museum für Naturkunde also contributed to the research.
Thackeray was equally instrumental in finding this species and provided crucial information on the natural history, said Giri. “This new discovery highlights the importance of the northern Western Ghats and further studies are warranted,” noted the research paper.
This is not the first species to be named after Tejas. In May, he helped in the discovery of Gecko species, ‘Hemidactylus thackerayi’ in the Easter Ghats of Tamil Nadu. He had also discovered 11 species and a genus of freshwater crabs in Western Ghats.