A two-headed snake was spotted on December 11 in West Bengal’s Midnapore district. According to zoologist Soma Chakraborty, it belongs to the Naja Kautia or monocled cobra species.

Reports said that the venomous snake could not be rescued by forest officials because villagers refused to hand it over, owing to mythological beliefs.

Chakraborty stated that the it was probably the result of a split embryo, or the outcome of environmental factors.

Kaustav Chakraborty, a herpetologist at the Forest Department, also emphasised a biological cause. “This is totally a biological issue like a human being can have two heads or thumbs similarly this snake has two heads,” he said. “This doesn’t have to do anything related to mythological belief.”

Two headed snakes, or polycephalic snakes do not typically live very long, as life can be confusing for them with two heads. According to Gordon Burghardt, a herpetologist who has studied several two-headed snakes, “Just watching them feed, often fighting over which head will swallow the prey, shows that feeding takes a good deal of time, during which they would be highly vulnerable to predators.”

Staying in captivity can increase their life-span, said Kaustav Chakraborty.