King kingdom

A documentary on the status of the king cobra in the districts of Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam

The Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society’s documentary A Forgotten Kingdom follows the king cobra’s journey through the unprotected landscapes of Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam districts, highlighting the need to protect it.

The documentary A forgotten kingdom by Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society follows a king cobra’s journey through unprotected landscapes in Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam districts, highlighting the need to protect it

In the highly modified and man-dominated landscape of the Eastern Ghats of Andhra Pradesh, exists a legendary serpent – ​​the king cobra. Although it is the longest venomous snake in the world, the king cobra is shy in nature and prefers to escape if it encounters human beings. However, here in the Eastern Ghats of southern India, such an encounter is often fatal to the snake. “Over the past six years, we have rescued up to 51 king cobras in Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts. Last year alone, 13 large king cobras and two hatchlings were rescued by our team,” said Murthy Kantimahanti, founder of Eastern Ghats Wildlife. Society (EGWS), a non-profit organization that promotes community-based wildlife conservation in the region.

Earlier this week, EGWS released the documentary A Forgotten Realm – King Cobras in the Eastern Ghats of Andhra Pradesh, highlighting the snake’s journey through the unprotected landscapes of Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam districts. The nearly five-minute documentary was shot over a four-month period in the wild and also documents the snake after it was freed following a rescue operation. Directed by Murthy with Sabbavarapu Madhu and Venkatesh Pechheti, the documentary seeks to project the king cobra conservation paradigm into the human-dominated landscapes of the Eastern Ghats in northern Andhra Pradesh and convey the message of conservation unprotected habitats outside sanctuaries and reserves.

A king cobra

A king cobra | Photo credit: special arrangement

According to a recent Global Reptile Assessment study by the journal Nature, about 20% of the world’s reptile species are at risk of extinction, mainly due to habitat destruction, urban development and logging. Of the more than 10,100 reptile species analyzed, around 21% have been classified as endangered, critically endangered or vulnerable to extinction, including the iconic king cobra and other hooded snakes from South and Southeast Asia. Threatened by habitat destruction, the king cobra has been listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List since 2010. In India, it is placed under Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 . The king cobra inhabits the Eastern Ghats, Western Ghats and Terai regions of India. He has also been sighted in Uttarakhand.

The documentary begins with a shot of the snake making its way through the forested landscapes of the Eastern Ghats, retracing its journey through human-dominated regions. The area’s palm oil plantations have the right temperature and resources to attract snakes, including king cobras. Human-snake conflicts are high in this region. The documentary tells about the ecological importance of the snake. “King cobras feed mainly on other snakes and play a vital role in maintaining an ecological balance. However, the species is killed indiscriminately in the northeastern Ghat region,” adds Murthy.

In 2016, the Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society launched the first-ever king cobra conservation program in collaboration with the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department. “The project not only addresses threats such as rampant king cobra killings by ignorant local communities, but also addresses snakebite management, which is a very serious conservation conflict in the area,” Murthy said. . Under the project, up to 18 amateur snake trainers received professional training and snake rescue equipment for the safe rescue of snakes from human habitations.

About 400 forest service, fire and state police personnel have been trained in local snake species identification and snakebite management. Snake awareness programs have also been held in more than 50 rural and urban schools.

The documentary is available on the Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society YouTube channel.