On behalf of the Sakaerat Najas Project, a huge shout out and thank you goes to the Sakaerat Conservaton and Snake Education Team (SCSET). Over the last few weeks the SCSET team have played a significant role in increasing our sample size by bringing in two new Naja siamensis (NASI021 and NASI022) and a new Naja kaouthia (NAKA017) all within a week, and all of whom have joined the burgeoning list of tracked snakes on the Naja Project. Not satisfied with that, whilst out tracking one of their King Cobras, SCSET trackers recently came across a second Naja kaouthia, and managed to capture NAKA018 for us. From their account of the event, NAKA018 was simply cruising along the dirt road in a eucalyptus plantation when they encountered him, and it seems all they had to do was place a bag in front of him and he kindly obliged by making his own way into the bag. Who knew it was so simple!
Unfortunately, however, due to the distance of his capture site and the fact that he’s a male, the decision was made not to track NAKA018. Therefore, after he was processed allowing us to take his biometric and genetic data enabling us see how he grows and develops should we ever run in to this most co-operative of snakes again. Bart and I, along with Jessie, a new member of the SCSET team and one of the guys who captured him, set off on our Kawasaki bikes to the plantation so he could be released. As we got to the capture location the wide-open space within the plantation gave an excellent opportunity for a few photographs, and after a quick photo shoot he was on his way back into the forest.
There was an hour or so of daylight left as NAKA018 departed, and as I had never been to this part of the station it was decided we should go for a quick ride around. We made our way through the plantations and grasslands stopping off here and there to get off the Kawasaki’s and have a mooch around on foot, but in all honesty seeing very little. Finally, we headed off to one last spot by small pool before we would head home.
Almost as soon as we’d got off the bikes and headed out in different directions on foot, I got the briefest of glimpses of a snakes tail disappearing into the undergrowth about 60 m down a steep sloping track. SNAKE! I shouted before running down the slope closely followed by Jessie and Bart. It was only as we got closer did we realise it was a King Cobra, and a big one at that. Seeing us, the snake took off and the three of us gave chase sprinting at full speed through the plantation just to keep up. 70 metres and an epic and intense 15 minutes later Bart had subdued the snake and he was in the bag safe and unharmed.
He was indeed a big snake, measuring at 3.2 metres and weighing over 6 kg he was a fine specimen of a King Cobra. It was hardly a surprise when the SCSET team incorporated him into their study, and as of his release on the 8th April OPHA029 became the latest King Cobra to be tracked in the Sakaerat Biosphere Reserve.
The very next day and a call comes through to the station from the local Rescue Team. They had just captured a King Cobra, and so once again Bart and I were on our Kawasaki’s heading out of the station to meet up with them. This time at just few centimiters under 4 metres long and weighing in impressively at over 8.5 kg, OPHA030 was a mighty beast. So much so that unwittingly Bart and I found ourselves on the local TV news.
The snake was transferred into a bag for transportation back to the station and delivery of yet another King Cobra to SCSET. Unfortunately, it was deemed to be from too far away for the team to consider it for the study but it was certainly a magnificent snake.
Just a few days later and once again we could help our neighbours at SCSET. This time it was Anji and her new Boiga cyanea Project. As we made our way out of the station at night after heavy rain, we were lucky enough to come across a beautiful Boiga cyanea, which was, untypically for this arboreal loving snake, crossing the road. As full grown adult at 1.5 metres its large enough for inclusion in Anji’s project and will become just the second snake in her exciting new study. Finally, with two King Cobras delivered, and a Boiga cyanea, our debt was paid in full.
With the great collaborative efforts of SCSET, Sakaerat Najas Project and the Rescue Team’s co-ordinated by Mr. Mee, the future looks bright for snake conservation in Sakaerat.