Monitoring Nesting Ecology of King Cobra in Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park

We have been monitoring nesting ecology of the world's longest venomous and the only nest building snake, the King Cobra for last couple of years. This year, information on a nest sighting was obtained from Sundarijal area, the buffer zone of Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park through Ms. Kanti Kandel, the Assistant Conservation Officer at SNNP. Immediately, Himalayan Nature in association with the park started monitoring of the nest. A two membered King Cobra research team from Himalayan Nature viz. Prof. Karan Bahadur Shah and Kul Bahadur Thapa, and a team of rangers (Suman Bhandari and Keshab Dhodari) and game scouts (Om Prakash Yadav and Sarbajit Yadav) from the national park monitored the nest.

During our first monitoring visit, the female King Cobra was found sitting on top of the nest built up of bamboo leaves, close to bamboo bush and about 55 meters away from the nearest house. The nesting site was in about 400 south-west facing slope at an altitude of 1511m from mean sea level. We photographed the female King Cobra with high resolution cameras to create a profile for future use. After about an hour, female itself left the nest, and we noted morphometric measurements and nest characteristics. Nest was carefully opened-up by experienced researchers and the morphometric measurements of the egg chamber were recorded. A total of 23 eggs were found inside the nest. Status of all the eggs was examined, length and width were measured, weight was taken and each egg was numbered at three places with a marker to keep the record of each egg during the following visits. During this visit, all the eggs were found to be healthy. After all the necessary measurements and examinations were completed, the nest was covered up. People living nearby village were disseminated with the knowledge on King Cobra and its importance.

Similar monitoring visits were made in each two weeks and measurements and examinations were carried out. In second last visit, a small hole on Egg No. 17 was observed which later got damaged and had to be removed to save other eggs.

During our visit on 5 September 2019, when we opened up the nest, we found all 22 eggs had hatched out and the juveniles sitting inside the egg chamber. As we opened up the chamber, the juveniles started leaving the nest. We captured some of them, took the measurement, weighed, photographed and released. Most of them climbed up the bamboo plants, however, others entered into the bamboo bush. Thus, about 96% of eggs hatched out successfully.

We believe that the valuable information gathered from such monitoring will significantly contribute in the long term conservation of this rare and globally threatened species.

  

Pic 1. Female King Cobra guarding her nest      Pic 2. King Cobra's nest                                         Pic 3. Egg clutch

  

Pic 4. All 23 eggs after examination                    Pic 5. Weighing an egg                                          Pic 6. Juvenile ready to be released into the forest 

  

Pic 7. A juvenile being weighed                            Pic 8. Juvenile climbing up the bamboo bush     Pic 9. Team members of last monitoring visit 

 

We are thankful to following people and institution for their valuable support in making this monitoring a success story:

  1. Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park
  2. Mr. Dil Bahadur Purja Pun – Chief Warden, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park
  3. Mr. Pashupati Adhikari – Assistant Conservation Officer, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park
  4. Ms. Kanti Kandel – Assistant Conservation Officer, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park
  5. Mr. Laba Guragain – Ranger, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park
  6. Mr. Suman Bhandari – Ranger, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park
  7. Mr. Anish KC – Ranger, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park
  8. Mr. Keshav Dhodari – Ranger, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park
  9. Mr. Om Prakash Yadav – Game Scout, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park
  10. Mr. Sarbajit Yadav – Game Scout, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park
  11. Mr. Keshab Jung Dhami – Game Scout, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park
  12. Mr. Santosh Bhattrai – Conservation Officer, NTNC-BCC, Sauraha, Chitwan
  13. Mr. Dipendra Adhikari – Wildlife Researcher and Conservationist, SMCRF
  14. Mr. Pawan Kumara Khadka – Local Resident, Puwargaun