King Cobras, by Sanjay Chhimwal

All those who know a little about snake they also know something about king cobra. Most of common men who know about snakes mostly have 90 % wrong information about snakes. Well this is not about to tell you all about the snakes and the facts related to them. This article is about a snake which you can say a ghost amongst snake, yes the King Cobra. King Cobra is rightly called King as it is the top predator amongst snakes and not only by this feature they are supreme amongst their species but also because they respect the humans and play a vital role in the balance of ecosystem.

Though the habitat these snakes live is normally far from humans but there have been some cases in the recent years where the king was found close to humans. I remember two incidents where I had a close encounter with this mighty snake. First it was in the month of October 2004 and second was April 2009. In both cases the king entered human habited areas. These incidents took place in village Dhikuli which is situated next to Corbett Park and on the other side it has Kosi River which divides it from Ramnagar Forest Division. Having in between these two perfect habitats many times the villagers come across wild animals and keep sighting small and big game. But it happens seldom that they come across the King Cobra.

In the first incident I got information in the morning hours of 7th October 2004 by one of the villager that a snake has entered into the mango tree next to their house and most probably it is cobra. I left to the site with my friend Murray Lewis immediately. We saw the snake and were surprised to see that it was not a common one but a King Cobra and what surprised me was that the people were not taking the snake seriously. There were about 50 people around, the majority of them children. I saw that it was about 9 – 10 feet long snake. I removed the children from the area and ask all not to harm the snake. While all this was going on, the Cobra was lying on the top branch of the tree, looking down.

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People were trying everything they could do to get the snake down. A few were shaking the tree and a few said that throwing water on the snake would force it to come down, but this was not successful. Suddenly a person lit a few fragrance sticks below the tree and started blowing Sankh (all due to religious beliefs as snakes are worshipped in Hindu religion) but that too failed. The next thing we did was to make a hook like structure to help us to get the snake down, hopefully without injuring it. At one point we almost managed to get it down but at the last moment the hook broke and the snake again went up into the tree. The problem here was that all the trees were connected with each other and there were houses around them. The cobra was able to move from tree to tree.

Finally, after the exhausting task of more then 2 hours, we managed to pull the snake down with the help of the hook, hopefully without injuring it. As soon as the snake landed on the ground it went into a small drainpipe, one end of which was closed with wire mesh. Now, the next challenge was to get the snake out of the drain! We removed the wire mesh but Cobra refused to come out. We put a sack on one end and tried to smoke the snake out, but still it remained in the pipe. Finally we poured water down the pipe and the Cobra came out. Now it was a challenge to drive the snake into an area, which would be safer for both humans and the snake. We decided to catch the snake and release it in the forest. I held the tail of the cobra keeping in mind how fatal the bite could be for me.  We droved the snake into the canal, which was luckily dry. Now it was easy to catch it. While the snake had been in the drainpipe, Murray had prepared a tool to hold the snake with the help of a stick and some wire. I asked for a sack and with the help of the tool managed to direct the snake into the sack. As the Cobra entered the sack, I jumped into the canal and closed the mouth of the sack and pushed the sake into the sack as quickly as I could have done. Once the cobra was inside, I tied the mouth of the sack with some rope. 

After a long battle between us we managed to get the deadly animal in control without any casualty to him as well as ourselves, about which I was worried from the starting. We took the snake to the office and estimated that it weighed around 5.5 Kg. Now this was time to release the innocent creature into its natural habitat. We released the Cobra in the forest and thanked him for his “cooperation” in the safe catch and release operation. (Later I was told by one of the leading snake expert not to take such risk with King Cobra in future without proper equipment as it could be dangerous)

The second incident is of 15th April 2009 where one fellow villager called me that a big snake has entered in a hut. I must say that the laymen is also able to identify snake as they told me that it is also a Cobra (or it could be just a wild guess as most of the people call every black snake a cobra). I arrived at the spot and was amazed to see the crowd outside the hut and majority of which was children and women. It was a small hut used by the owner as kitchen with only one entrance and two small windows like holes. They tried every bit to drive the snake out but the poor fellow was caged in the hut with single entrance and was scared more than angry.

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Here also the challenge was to handle the crowd more than the snake. I went in the small hut and was more amazed to see the snake – yes it was a king cobra and was about 16 – 17 feet long snake. The main problem was here that the hut was dark and there was hardly much space to handle such a large snake. Well after a hard work and that too without proper equipment I managed to bring out the snake out of the hut and the poor fellow was also relieved and took no time to disappear into it’s natural home.

These are two cases which increased my interests as well as passion about these reptiles. I learnt that they are one of the most innocent creature on nature and never harm us if we leave them to live in their own habitat. I had some more encounters with venomous as well as non venomous snakes and trust me they never tried to bite me.



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