BANGALORE: King cobras, which are the largest among the venomous snakes, are friendly with other creatures, says P Gowrishankar, herpetologist and researcher at the Agumbe Rain Forest Research Station (ARRS), established by well-known herpetologist Romulus Whitaker at Agumbe in Shimoga district.
For instance, Gowrishankar noticed that a king cobra, during a study, lifted its body slightly to allow a moving centipede to pass through. Like human beings or any other animals, king cobras also try to avoid ants. Radio-collared king cobras in the rain forests of Agumbe have revealed more details about their lifestyle, habits and behaviour.
The other interesting fact about the king cobras noticed in Agumbe is that the males fiercely fight among themselves, when two or more of them are trying to woo a single female for mating.
It is the survival of the fittest – the winner mates with the female ultimately.
From March 2008, ARRS has been studying king cobras after radio-collaring them. At that time, two king cobras (one male and another female) were radiocollared.
In March 2009, two more king cobras were radio- collared. Both of them were local habitants.
“It is observed that the translocated cobra moves long distances, while the local snakes move within a radius of six square km,” Gowrishankar said. “This is not a conclusion. During the process of our study, we have noticed this,” he adds.
They are good swimmers too, he says.
Earlier it was believed that king cobras hunt for their prey only on the ground. But now it is noticed that they hunt on trees also. It was believed that the king cobras, during rain, stay in dry places. But, it was observed that they don’t mind drenching in the rain for hours. They enjoy rain silently. However, during the night, they take shelter under logs of wood, buttresses of trees and in termite mounds.
ARRS has been doing a research on the king cobras, the flagship snake of the reptile family, in association with University of Arizona and with the help of the Karnataka Forest Department, Shimoga sub-division.
Prof Mathew Goode, who has been studying rattle snakes through radio telemetry since 1970, has been guiding the ARRS in its study of king cobras.
Apart from around eight people including local tribal people, on a permanent basis, students from Mumbai, Delhi and even US come to ARRS to work as volunteers.
Romulus Whitaker, the founder director of the ARRS visits the research station frequently.
Study of snakes through radio telemetry is not new.
But for the first time in the world, a study is being done on king cobras.
Agumbe rain forest area is the natural habitat of king cobras. Climate in Agumbe is perfectly suited for them, Gowrishankar points out.