Bengaluru: Russell’s viper (Daboia russelii) is locally called ‘irtale’, meaning one having two heads, although in reality it has a single head.
But in self-defence, it is believed to have the ability to make its tail resemble the shape of a head and raise it to keep away its enemies and predators.
Hence with the long-standing mistaken impression about the two heads, the name has stuck.
There has been a false belief that keeping and nurturing it at home brings about good luck. Hence these critically endangered species are lifted from their habitats and forests and sold at fancy amounts to gullible buyers.
A gang of 16 persons has been arrested this week by the Yelahanka police here on charges of putting up a Russell’s Viper for sale at a whopping Rs 2 crore.
The gang-members hail from different towns like Mandya, Chikkaballapura, Bengaluru and Chamarajanagar, besides the mastermind, M Sataiah from Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu.
He had offered the viper on sale through one Chandraprabhu Swamy, living in Ittamadu of Banashankari III stage.
By own experience, they were aware that women fell easy prey to making quick bucks.
With glib sales talk, they tried to tell their prospects that keeping it home would ward off bad luck and make up losses in business, ensure early promotion in employment and the like.
They used the codeword ‘double engine’ for the supposedly two-headed viper.
They also cited fictional tales of others having succeeded similarly after buying the vipers, claimed to have special vaastu power.
Pavitra (name changed), a woman from Yelahanka, had lost about Rs 2.50 crore in realty business and been desperately trying to make good the loss by running a beauty parlour.
Chandraprabhu Swamy was well aware of the pathetic case of Pavitra. He tricked her into believing the ‘double engine’ story and got her to come to Shreyas Hotel near Kogilu cross to collect the viper on payment.
Pavitra somehow smelt a rat. Already in the red by Rs 2.50 crore, she realized that coughing out another Rs 2.50 crore would be disastrous.
On the pretext of bringing money from home, she straightaway headed for the police station and filed a complaint.
The police raided the hotel. In all, 16 persons involved were arrested. They seized the prized viper as well.
The arrested are suspected to have cheated many others in different parts of the state. The police intend to go deeper into the case.