The Eastern Ghats are a stretch of discontinuous hill ranges extending along the east coast of South India. They abound in several species of snakes including the iconic King Cobra Ophiophagus hannah which is the longest venomous snake in the world. It is has been assessed as “Vulnerable” under the IUCN Red List. They are also legally protected in India under the Wildlife Act, 1972. However, several adult king cobras are indiscriminately killed on sight by local people every now and again each year throughout the North Eastern Ghats region. This indicates a deep intolerance among people and lack of measures to prevent such incidents. Many other snake species that form the very prey base for the King Cobra are also killed due to fear and ignorance.
Likewise, venomous snakes kill more than 50,000 people each year in India and the World Health Organization also categorized snake bite as a neglected tropical disease. Unfortunately, most of the bites happen in rural areas where people have no knowledge or necessary skills to deal with snake encounters and get bitten while trying to kill the snake or accidentally stepping on it at night.
The project will work towards conserving King Cobras as well other threatened ophiofauna by habitat protection, education and community engagement in the affected areas of the North Eastern Ghats. We will a) provide on-the-ground solutions to mitigate human-snake conﬂicts, and b) incorporate indigenous knowledge of wildlife by training chosen local tribes as “parabiologists” in basic survey techniques and snake rescue methods who can eventually go back to their communities and help them when issues arise as well as assist us in conservation efforts. We will also collect baseline data on the species population distribution and habitat suitability to develop a management strategy for king cobra conservation in the region.