ANDHRA PRADESH

Signs of hope for endangered species



M. Sai Gopal

HYDERABAD: The city based-Asian Wildlife Foundation's (AWIFO) ongoing research gives strong indications of the presence of King Cobra, `Ophiophagus Hannah', an uncommon and endangered species in Khammam, East Godavari and Vizag districts.

King Cobra is the only snake that exclusively feeds on other kinds of snakes, including the common Indian Cobra (Naja Naja) and is the only species to build its own nest during the breeding season.

Researchers claim to have strong evidence, including photographs of the presence of King Cobra, which many believe is not found anymore in the State. The researchers claim to have found a couple of specimens of King Cobra in the three districts.

Research to continue

The breeding season of this species begins from August and peaks by the year-end and continues till June-July every year and researchers of AWIFO point out that research would continue till July next year to draw out more details on the species.

"It was 1998 when a King Cobra specimen was last cited in Andhra Pradesh. There has been a tendency to believe that King Cobras are found only in Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, parts of Orissa, West Bengal and North East," says Managing Trustee of AWIFO P. Prabhu, adding that the King Cobra species was indeed found in Khammam, East Godavari and Vizag districts of the State as well.

Shy creature

King Cobra is basically a shy creature and prefers low temperatures and is found usually in rain forests. "A few parts of the three districts do provide a congenial climate for King Cobra species. We have seen them grow till 14 feet and one bite of a King Cobra can kill seven full-grown men. The average lifespan is about 25 years. These facts are being confirmed by our researchers," Mr. Prabhu pointed out.

AWIFO members also pointed out that a complete report on their research would be submitted for corroboration and peer review to the Bombay Natural History Society's journal.