The first-ever King Cobra Conservation workshop was organised at the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park, Visakhapatnam, as a joint initiative by the AP Forest Department and the Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society. Here are the insights from the workshop in Visakhapatnam.
Scaly, slithery and silent. The King cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), is the world’s longest venomous snake, and can be found in the Eastern Ghats of North Andhra Pradesh. The species is protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Despite its size, the King cobra is shy and always tries to avoid humans. It is primarily a snake-eater and actually helps in controlling other deadly venomous snake populations in the region by feeding on them. The more ferocious snakes are the Indian cobra, common krait, Russell’s viper and the saw-scaled viper.
However, such rare and ecologically valuable species are indiscriminately being killed only due to perceptive fear and lack of awareness. Moreover, many species of harmless non-venomous snakes are also killed due to false beliefs and misconceptions. Increased habitat destruction and unsustainable agriculture practices further threaten snake populations in the Eastern Ghats.
The fact that thousands of people die, each year, from venomous snake bites in rural parts of the country, does surely become a reason for fear. However, what many do not know, is that simple precautionary measures can go a long way in saving lives. An urgent need to reduce conflict between humans and snakes is much needed. This will not only reduce the human casualties from snakebites but also protect the threatened King cobra populations.
The workshop was conducted to find solutions and devise a king cobra conservation strategy by actively engaging the frontline forest staff and local snake rescuers in high conflict zones where King Cobras have been killed or sighted. It brought together field officers and amateur snake rescuers in the north coastal districts of Visakhapatnam, Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and East Godavari districts.
Additionally, the Department also informed the precautions that need to be taken in case of sighting a snake on one’s premises.
If you sight a snake, then a few tips recommended by certified snake handlers are:
• Move as far away from the snake as possible
• Wherever possible, keep all the windows open
• Alternatively, lock the room / confine the area where the snake has been sighted
• Immediately call for help.
The Forest Department has also provided the key contacts for help.
Forest Range Officer
Founder – Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society (EGWS)
Volunteer – Forest Department and Certified Snake handler
Photo credit – Avinash Chintalapudi/ Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society.