Study on distribution, threats and nesting ecology of King Cobra in Makwanpur District, Central Nepal

The King Cobra Ophiophagus hannah (Cantor, 1836) is found in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan and most parts of Southeast Asia. This species owns the pride of being the longest venomous snake in the world. The king cobra is considered a dangerous snake that has a fearsome reputation in its range, although it typically avoids confrontation with humans when possible. It is very rare in much of its range, and has experienced local population declines of over 80% over 10 years in parts of its range. Habitat degradation, decline in prey base, high human persecution and illegal collection have been collectively affecting their global population. King Cobra is a globally threatened species and has been listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN red list of threatened species (2012) and also included in the Appendix II of the CITES.

In Nepal, King Cobra has been recorded throughout Terai and up to 2500m; whereas in Southeastern Tibet, bordering Nepal, it has been found up to 4000m. King Cobra is considered rare in Nepal but rigorous field study is crucial for the assessment of its precise conservation status. The species has been listed as Vulnerable in the National Red Data Book of Nepal since 1995 but Shah and Baral (2010) recommended it to be included in Nepal Government’s National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act (1973) in contingent to level of different threats and rareness. 

King Cobra specific scientific study had been till date lacking in Nepal. Moreover, no any information on nesting ecology of King Cobra was available. Therefore, we had very little in-country information on the species. Hence, we started our study on distribution, threats and nesting ecology of King Cobra in Northern parts of Makwanpur district. 

The survival of King Cobra in the proposed study area was critical, within last three years, adult King Cobras were brutally killed and four nests along with 90 eggs were destroyed by the local people. The main reason was due to fear as a result of lack of knowledge about the species and its role in the nature. Therefore, better understanding on distribution of King Cobra, threats to its survival and nesting ecology was essential so as to come up with precise conservation measures in the future.

Our methods included lines transect survey, key informant interviiew, informal interaction, questionnaire survey and monitoring of nests during breeding season. The project was supported by National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), Nepal.