Wednesday, 6 July 2011


Photos: K.S.Sajwan                                               Click on picture to enlarge
King Cobra with hood up- Photo.K.S.Sajwan

King cobra guarding its nest

The magnificient King Cobra has nested once again in the Himalayan District of Nainital. The first nesting was observed at Talla Ramgarh at 1500m a few years ago and was successfully protected by Manish of Tapogiri, the locals, NGOs and the forest department and the hatchlings were released in the wild. The same locality reported repeated nesting and hatching since then. King Cobra was found upto 2000m in this region. Now, a new nest has been found at Jeolikote at around 1300m altitude. A large king cobra is presently guarding the nest made of leaf litter in a forest lease land presently being cultivated by a local villager. The forest department has immediately taken the role of protecting the nest and the eggs within. The visitors and villagers have been kept 100m away from the nesting site by a wire fencing. Amit Verma IFS, the Divisional Forest Officer of Haldwani has set up a CCTV at the nesting site so that the activity of the mother and other activities can be seen and shown to visitors too from a remote locality. He has pitched a tent away from the site for this purpose. The above photos were taken by Mr.Kalyan Singh Sajwan, a senior assistant of the Nainital Forest Division. The mother was seen repairing the nest after a severe rain had done some damage to it. It moves in a circle around the nest and in the mean time lifts leaf litter to make a pile in a shape of a dome. After repairing the nest, it sits on top of it and guards the nest from predators. However, as the prey of king cobras are snakes, themselves, there is a danger of the mother eating up the hatchlings. Hence, nature has made the design in such a grand manner that the mother would abandon the nest before the eggs are ready to hatch!!!
 In the earlier nesting at Talla Ramgarh, the mother abandoned the nest one month prior to hatching. The nest was protected from fire and enclosed with a sheet so that the hatchlings could be seen before they leave the nest. A total of 21 eggs hatched out of which 19 hatchlings survived till the first moulting. They were later released in a jungle near by, slightly away from the habitation nearby. Given below are the photographs of the earlier hatching of king cobras at Ramgarh.  According to Shri.Bijulal.T.R. IFS, the Divisional Forest Officer of Nainital, "The parental care of Kingcobras is one of the most amazing phenomenon in the Animal Kingdom!!!".
A baby King Cobra
King Cobras have always been there in the higher himalayas too as the deep crevasses in the rocky ground provided temperatures befitting the species. They were locally known as "Soopy samp" due to their large hood looking like a winnow board ('Soopa' in hindi). However, they were never photographed till 2005 when the first nest was found in Ramgarh, which is the highest published record of this species. The highest unpublished report of Kingcobra is at Kanar Van Panchayat at around 2800m altitude. The Goriganga valley of Askote Wildlife sanctuary also has a good population of Kingcobras. They are also found in pine forests and makes nest out of pine needles. The villagers are aware of a 'snake' that lays eggs under heaps of pine needles and they usually burn the nest out of fear. Such nest was recently reported at Lohaghat too.


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  5. Yesterday saw one King Cobra while coming to Bhowali, near Mapple hotel.