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King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 0925556

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 0925556) - King Cobra - Awarded $25,000 on October 24, 2009

Mission statement: To conserve the Agumbe rainforest landscape through research, conservation and education, with the king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) as the flagship species. Background: The Agumbe Rainforest Research Station (ARRS) was established by Romulus Whitaker and his colleagues in 2005 as a base for multidisciplinary research, conservation and education activities pertaining to the rainforest. Agumbe has the highest rainfall in South India, peaking at 11,000 mm per year, which makes wildlife biology here an extremely challenging task. Before the establishment of ARRS, researchers and students would visit the forest for a few days and then return to their urban base for recuperation. Now, with comfortable, dry facilities right in the jungle, it is possible to continue working throughout the year, even during the monsoon. The uniqueness of the Western Ghats and urgent need for research and conservation action is dramatically emphasized by the fact that our colleagues are now describing over 100 new species of amphibians! The team leader has made observations on the king cobra for the past 20 years, but the in depth study of this elusive snake has been impossible until the establishment of ARRS. Since 2005 our team has rescued nearly 100 adult king cobras from people’s houses and gardens in the region, monitored seven nests (this is the only snake that builds a nest), observed amazing reproductive and cannibalistic behaviour plus tracked one male for over 80 km, the longest movement of a snake on record. A tantalizing beginning, the very first snake telemetry project in India! Objectives: 1. To carry out basic studies on the status, ecology and distribution of the charismatic king cobra and key endangered fauna of the rain forest 2. To create a biodiversity inventory for the Agumbe rainforest and adjacent Protected Areas 3. To set up automatic weather stations to monitor climate change at Agumbe and soon, several other stations. 4. To create an interface between wildlife biologists, the Forest Department and other government agencies and the people who live in and around the forest in the interests of conservation, management and sustained use of forest resources. 5. To continue an ongoing education programme and pride building exercise amongst school and college youths, local government bodies and forest dwelling people. Geographic area: ARRS is located on a 10 acre plot, owned by ARRS, in a jungle clearing near the village of Agumbe in the Biodiversity Hotspot known as the Western Ghats. The Agumbe Reserved Forest is bordered by three Protected Areas: Someshwara and Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuaries and Kudremukh National Park and is part of the largest contiguous forest mosaic in South India. The area of operation of ARRS is approximately 600 square kilometres. Target species and habitat: While the first focus and expertise of the ARRS founder is on herpetology with the iconic king cobra being the first subject of intensive study and amphibians subjects of high priority, other representative taxa of particular interest to ARRS include: Fauna: lion-tailed macaque, tiger, pied hornbill, white-necked stork, , mahseer fish, purple tree crab, green scorpion, wood spider, blue mormon butterfly, ant-lion. Flora: malai-murugan nettle, bay-leaf, cane, myristica swamp flora, ornamental/medicinal plants of commercial value. ARRS workers and invited researchers have been working in deep forests, hill escarpments, agricultural fields, plantations, streams, swamps and most recently in the canopy of the Agumbe Reserve Forest.



Project 0925556 location - India, Asia