The last few months have been a busy time for our คณะวิจัยงูสะแกราชฯ – Sakaerat Conservation and Snake Education Team neighbours here at the Sakaerat Biosphere Research Centre, as its been the King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) breading season. At this time of year, the male Kings Cobras, fuelled by a burning desire to meet the lady of their dreams, are more than capable of moving several kilometers at pace cross country in their search. The hardy trackers on the SCSET team have been dragged here, there and everywhere by their lusty males but as usual have done a great job in keeping tabs on them.
Even for royalty there’s a correct way in which things are done, a male can’t just go steaming in for a bit of wham bam thank you ma’am action, without first seeing off his competition, and there is always plenty of that around. Now, as I’m sure you all know the King Cobra is the world’s largest venomous snake, so when the hormones begin to course and carnal desires stir, biting and envenomating one another just would not do, especially for one so regal. Another way is needed and being the intelligent and sophisticated animals they are, the King Cobras have come up with a far more civilized, graceful and sophisticated form of male to male combat. As can be seen in the amazing photos taken by Bartosz during his time as a guest of Gowri Shankar at the wonderful Kalinga Centre for Rainforest Ecology. The King Cobras engage in a wrestling match in which they entwine their long bodies and attempt to push down and pin their opponent to the ground. Such battles can last for several exhausting hours particularly if the males are evenly matched, but with luck to the winner goes the spoils of war, and a steamy night of passion with the lady who inspired their desires. For the looser, well at least such a civilised form of combat means that he lives to fight another day.
It’s not just the SCSET team that have their work cut out for them over the mating season. The rescue teams around Thailand like that of หมี กู้ภัยอุดมทรัพย์ อ.วังน้ำเขียว here in the area of the Sakaerat Reserve also have a busy time during these few months. The rescue teams many of which now contain skilled snake handlers having attended one of the SCSET rescue team snake handling courses, deal with most of the snake calls from the public, often getting call outs from concerned villagers when the one track minded snakes, start finding their way in and around people’s properties and homes in the search of a female. Thankfully, due largely to the great SCSET outreach work headed up by Prapasiri Sutthisom, villager’s perceptions of snakes around the area are starting to change slowly, and their first reaction more and more these days is to call the rescue teams or even the station itself to come and remove the snake rather than kill it.
Despite all the extra hard work for SCSET following the tracked King Cobras, all this movement does have some benefits for the snake research teams based here at the station. During this time, we ourselves on the Sakaerat Najas Project were able help and support our neighbours by finding and capturing two King Cobras whilst conducting active snake surveys. A feat which is very rare indeed with such an intelligent and cryptic species such as Ophiophagus hannah. Both animals have been passed on to SCSET, and the valuable data from these snakes is now included in their important work focusing on the research and conservation of the species within the Sakaerat Biosphere Reserve.
Whilst the prospect of even greater collaborative efforts is hoped for over the 6th and 7th of October when both the Sakaerat Najas Project and SCSET, together with researchers from around the world will be meeting in Veenendaal, The Netherlands for the first King cobra symposium, organized by Herpetofauna foundation to discuss and present their work and findings on these magnificent animals and other snakes as well. More information you can find at