KING COBRA NEST: protection and relocation of Hatchling's
Endangered Flora and Fauna on Earth Conservation Team (EFFECT) had identified an abandoned nest of King Cobra in Chamsari Beat of Mussoorie Forest Division the details of which were provided to the office of Divisional Forest Officer Mussoorie. After discussion with the same a project was formulated to protect and conserve the nest till the time the eggs hatch, followed by the release of the hatchlings in the wild. The project was to be executed by EFFECT Team under the supervision of Dr. Abhishek Singh and the expenditure was to be borne by the Mussoorie Forest Division as submitted tentatively in the project proposal.
The nest and the hatchlings were protected and the entire process of incubation of eggs was monitored, the behaviour of hatchlings and the physical conditions affecting their survivability and relocation of the same into the wild were also studied.
Programme Area,Location of Nest: Chamsari Beat, Compartment No 1 , Mussoorie Forest Division.
Area of Release of Hatchlings: Ranipur Range and Chilla Range of Rajaji National Park
Programme Duration : Two Months
About King Cobra:
The king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) is an elapid found predominantly in forests from India through Southeast Asia. This species is the world's longest venomous snake, with a length up to 18.5 to 18.8 ft (5.6 to 5.7 m). Despite the word "cobra" in its common name, this snake is not a member of the Naja genus ("true cobras"), which contains most cobra species, but the sole member of its own genus. It preys chiefly on other snakes and occasionally on some other vertebrates, such as lizards and rodents.. King cobras are sexually dimorphic in size, with males reaching larger sizes than females. The length and mass of the snakes highly depend on their localities and some other factors. Despite their large sizes, typical king cobras are fast and agile.
It has petroglyph dentition, meaning it has two short, fixed fangs in the front of the mouth, which channel venom into the prey like hypodermic needles. The average lifespan of a wild king cobra is about 20 years.
The king cobra's generic name, Ophiophagus is a Greek-derived word which means "snake-eater", and its diet consists primarily of other snakes, including rat snakes, small pythons and even other venomous snakes such as various members of the true cobras (of the genus Naja), and the krait. When food is scarce, they may also feed on other small vertebrates, such as lizards, birds, and rodents. After a large meal, the snake may live for many months without another one because of its slow metabolic rate. The king cobra's most common meal is the rat snake; pursuit of this species often brings king cobras close to human settlements.
The king cobra is unusual among snakes in that the female king cobra is a very dedicated parent. She makes a nest for her eggs, scraping up leaves and other debris into a mound in which to deposit them, and remains in the nest until the young hatch. A female usually deposits 20 to 40 eggs into the mound, in this particular case there were 29 eggs out of which 24 hatched successfully and the remaining 5 were damaged by either ants or rats. She stays with the eggs and guards the mound tenaciously, rearing up into a threat display if any large animal gets too close, for roughly 60 to 90 days(this is how the aggressive female was spotted by the villagers on a passage near their village, sitting on top of mound of leaves).
Inside the mound, the eggs are incubated at a steady 28°C(82 °F), in this case as well the average temperature for the entire period under observation was found to be 27-28°C. When the eggs start to hatch, instinct causes the female to leave the nest and find prey to eat so she does not eat her young.
The baby king cobras, with an average length of 45 to 55 cm (18 to 22 in), have venom which is as potent as that of the adults. They may be brightly marked, but these colours often fade as they mature while in this case the juveniles had shiny appearance with some having larger hoods and more agility then the others. They are alert and nervous, being highly aggressive if disturbed, a behaviour which was showcased by the juveniles during the time of their release.
The juveniles also showed great ability to climb the trees and shrubs as was captured in a video in which one of the juvenile upon being released climbed up a lantana. As was observed that the juvenile King Cobras also showed a affinity to water as when they were released in the wild they went towards the water and were swimming effortlessly, a couple of them also drank water upon their release.