A King Cobra at the Pilikula Biological Park in Mangaluru has laid 38 eggs which were bred under artificially created conditions. The park resumed captive breeding of King Cobras after a gap of more than a decade. The eggs are being hatched under artificial conditions since the evening of July 7, and all neonates are expected to come out of their eggs by July 9.
According to the park director H. Jayaprakash Bhandary, the captive breeding or conservative breeding process comprises creating an artificial condition for mating, gestation and incubation periods, as well as hatching and rearing the neonates till about a year.
The Pilikula Biological Park is the only zoo in India to get permission from the Central Zoo Authority for captive breeding of King Cobras. The project was first sanctioned in 2010-11, and for the second time in 2021-22, Mr. Bhandary said.
Under the second project, which is under way, the process of breeding under artificially created conditions had begun in March 2022. The male mate was named ‘Nagappa’ and the female was named ‘Nagini’. Interestingly, Nagappa was born in captivity in the same zoo under the first project (2010-11). Eight-year-old Nagini had been brought to the park from Sampaje in the Western Ghats for treatment of injuries. Later, she was retained in the park.
The director said that the gestation period after mating is between 30-40 days. The incubation period is 76 days; it means the neonates start coming out of their eggs after 76 days. The hatching, which is under way, is expected to be over by July 9. The neonates will be fed and reared before being released in the forest after assessing their health condition.
Neonates are 1.5 feet long while the length of adults ranges from 12-18 feet.
“The success during the second project too underlines the fact that the park has a conducive atmosphere for captive breeding of King Cobras,” Mr. Bhandary said.
“The life span of King Cobras in the wild is usually 16 years. But, the number goes up under captive conditions. One King Cobra lived in Pilikual Park for up to 22 years,” he said.
Under the first captive breeding project in the park in 2010-11, one King Cobra had laid 43 eggs, followed by 22 eggs laid by another female and 18 eggs by the third female. The gestation period was 40 days and the incubation period then was 88-89 days. The hatching had been completed in two days.
“As many as 65 neonates had been released in the forest after they were one year old. The success rate of that project was 99%,” Mr. Bhandary said.
“The success rate of hatching is more under artificially created incubation condition, as the eggs are free from attack from ants and fungus, unlike in natural conditions in forests. A specified humidity will be maintained during the incubation period under laboratory conditions,” he said.
The other members of the team involved in the second project were Senior Scientific Officer Jerald Vikram Lobo, Veterinary Doctor K. Madhusoodan, Biologist M. S. Suma, and K. P. Dinesh Kumar, who was the caretaker of the King Cobras.
“We have observed healthy neonates born from healthy eggs,” said Mr. Dinesh.