COBRAS: CHARACTERISTICS, SPECIES, FESTIVALS, SNAKE CHARMERS AND MONGOOSES

COBRAS


Indian cobra

Cobras are fast, graceful poisonous snakes that have a hood and raise the front part of their body off the ground in a distinctive way. There are only six species of true cobra: one in India and five in Africa. The king cobra is venomous and has a hood, but it belongs to a different genus. [Source: Harry Miller, National Geographic, September 1970]

Cobra hoods are distended with special ribs. They only becomes raised when cobras are in an aggressive mood. The markings on the back of a cobra's hood are probably a defense tool. When a cobra is not disturbed its hood lies flat on its head and the cobra looks much like other snakes. A 15-foot cobra can rise almost a meter and half off the ground.

Cobras are generally peaceful creature who go out of the way to avoid man and will only strike when cornered. Sometimes they growl. One cobra handler told National Geographic, “Snakes aren’t evil or mean. They just want to be left alone.” A cobra has lived to the ago of 14.

Cobra Mating

Cobras engage in mock fights before sex. The male and the female fling themselves at each other as the female attempts to rebuff the males efforts to place his body next to hers. They then strike at one another until the female adopts a submissive position and the males uses one his two penises to have sex. Copulation lasts anywhere from 2 minutes to an entire day.

Cobra females lay 10 to 20 eggs, which are two inches across. The male and female take turns watching the eggs during the incubation period. Baby snakes, fully equipped with venom and fangs, are 10 inches long when they squirm out of the egg’s thin leathery shell.

Cobras as Predators and Prey


cobra juvenile

Cobras eats mice, toads and frogs. One reason the Indians are so fond of cobras is they often feed on rats, perhaps the greatest destroyer of crops on the subcontinent.

Wild pigs, civets, ratels and peafowl prey on cobras. Pigs, which eat the snake as well kill it, are protected against the venom to some degree by their thick hides and layers of fat. Peafowl peck at the head of young snakes and then swallow them whole like a "string of spaghetti." Cobras are caught by hunters are sold them to snake charmers and tanneries to make wallets and handbags.

To protect themselves cobras sometimes turn their backs to predators in an attempt to intimidate them with the "bold eye" markings on the back of their hood. The extending of the hood also protects the snake by making it difficult for the teeth a predator to grip it. Some species rarely use biting for defense although they use it for hunting.

Cobra Bites and Spitting

Cobras kill an estimated 10,000 people in India alone. They also kill large numbers of people in Vietnam, Burma, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Often time people bitten by cobras have no reaction. Sometimes the fangs don't dig in far enough and other times, for whatever reason, snakes don't inject their venom.

King cobras produces large amounts of a potent venom: enough to kill an elephant. They inject the poison through relatively small fangs (about ten millimeters long).

Cobras have more potent toxins than vipers but vipers have longer fangs and a better system for delivering poisons deep into the victims flesh. Cobra fangs are essentially tubes (the venom-carrying grooves being enclosed by an infolding at their edges). Unlike vipers, whose long fangs fold up inside the mouth, cobra fangs are located at the front of the mouth and can be put into use more easily. Some cobras have a deep groove in the front of the teeth which allows them to spit poison.

Two African cobras, ringhals and one Indian cobra spit. Among these species the ducts carrying the venom open onto the front rather than at the tip. By ejecting the venom forcibly they can shoot in a stream with a high degree of accuracy up to 3½ meters (12 feet). They often aim for the eyes. Poison that reaches the eyes can causes temporary---and in some cases permanent---blindness. Spitting is used primarily as a defensive measure.

Cobra Poisons

In most cases cobra poison attacks the central nervous system and death when it occurs is usually caused by respiratory paralysis. The Asian cobra bite causes considerable tissue damage and sometimes paralysis. The mortality rate of bite victims is around 10 percent. There is an antivenin.

King cobra poison causes rapid swelling, dizziness, loss of consciousness, difficulty breathing, erratic heart-beat. The mortality rates depends on the amount of venom taken by the victim. Most bites involve non-fatal amounts.

Antivenim is made the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute’s snake farm in Bangkok. Venim is milked every couple of weeks and injected into horses., which develop antibodies. Horse plasma is collected and treated to make the medicine

In some cases cobra venom can be helpful. Some scientist prescribe it as a treatment for arthritis; it relieves pain but doesn't have that addictive qualities of opiates. Venom from the Thailand cobra is used by the drug company Biotherapeutics to make Immuneokine, an antiviral drug used to treat neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s diseases and adrenomyeloneuropathy.

Species of Cobras


There are six species of cobra: five in Africa and the Middle East and one in Asia. The Asian species is divided into about 10 subspecies, including the Indian cobra, common cobra, Asian cobra, spectacled cobra or simple cobra. The Asian cobra reaches lengths of 1½ meters (5 feet) and is found throughout southern Asia, including Taiwan and the Philippines.

The Indian cobra is favored by snake charmers. Measuring 1.2 to 1.7 meters (four to 5½ feet), it is common throughout south Asia and is responsible for a relatively large number of snake fatalities in India, in part due its fondness for rice paddies and roadside banks near villages. Indian cobras come in a wide range of shades, ranging from light brown to black but most individuals have distinctive pale “spectacle” markings on the back of their hoods. Good swimmers and tree climbers, they are sometimes seen during the day but are most active at night. They feed on small mammals, birds, lizards and other snakes, killing them in a matter of seconds with their powerful venom. In the cobars are fed on by mongooses and birds of prey.

The spitting cobra (ringhal) squirts venom through holes in front of its fangs as a defense. These snakes reach lengths of five to seven feet and are found in southern Africa. The red spitting cobra of Northern Africa is 70 to 120 centimeters (28 to 47 inches) long and ranges in colore from red to gray. When threatened it can squirt venom out of small apertures in its fangs, spraying a cloud of droplets about two meters into the air. The venom does not kill but it can cause permanent blindness. Possessing a narrow hood and a red band across its neck its throat, this snake is most active at night and the early morning. Females lay up to 18 eggs in a burrow or rotting vegetation.

A species of cobra in Borneo can spit venom in the eyes of prey or enemy five feet away. The venom shocks and momentarily blind the animal leaving it vulnerable to a fanged attack. Local people often wear shiny pendants that they hope the snake will confuse for eyes.

King Cobras


The king cobra is the largest and longest venomous snake. It is not common but is found over a wide area in tropical Southeast Asia, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines. It survives best in dense undergrowth such as mangrove swamps or forests near streams and is sometimes found around villages and ruined buildings. The king cobra is not a true cobra. It is venomous and has a hood, but it belongs to a different genus. [Source: Mattias Klum, National Geographic, November 2001]

The king cobra averages three to five meters (10 to 16 feet) in length and can stand up almost as tall as a man. According to the Guinness Book of Records, an 18-foot-2-inch specimen was captured in Malaysia in 1937. It later grew to 18 feet, 9 inches at the London Zoo. King cobras in captivity have lived to the age of 25. The snake’s large size allows it to overpower other snakes. When threatened it raises the front third of its body off the ground---allowing to reach a height of 1.5 meters---and often strikes downward.


king cobra

King cobras are good swimmers, often vliving near water, and feeds mostly on other snakes. Unlike most reptiles, king cobras are at least temporarily monogamous stay with their eggs until they are hatched and viciously defends them. Females build a a nest from leaf litter and both sexes defend the territory around it. Between 20 and 40 hatchlings are born, already outfit with poison. The poison increases in quantity as the snakes get older and bigger. Juveniles are darker than adults, which are plain brown. Young snakes also have dark chevrons running down their backs.

King cobras are generally shy and retreating and only aggressive if provoked. There have been few reported human attacks in part because the snakes generally avoid human contact and prefer dense forests.

King cobras are threatened by deforestation, forest fragmentation and the illegal wildlife trade. . Biologist Wolfgang Wuster of the University of Wales told National Geographic, “King cobras don’t adapt well to heavily cultivated areas like rice fields. So if the forest go, so do the kings.”

Cobra Worship

Cobras are worshiped throughout India. Unlike Christians who equate snakes with the devil and the temptation of Eve, Hindus view cobras as a positive symbol. According to legends they have shielded kings, tribal heroes and Hindu gods such as Krishna with their hoods. Villagers honor them for their ability to bring rain, fear them for their ability to bring disasters and regard them as reincarnations of important chiefs. The Tamils of southern India call cobras Nulla Pambu---the good snake.

Nagas are mythical semi-divine serpent-gods that are often depicted as cobras with multiple heads (often five) that spread out like a fan. They are regarded as protectors of sacred places and live in the water or the underworld beneath the earth. They can marry humans and cam bring rain and prosperity to a region and are closely associated with Vishnu and Vaishnavote Hinduism.

Cobras and Shiva


Especially among Tamils, cobras are associated with the Shiva, one the three most important gods in Hinduism, and lingams, symbols of Shiva that represent rebirth and fertility and the creative forces of the universe. Shiva is sometimes painted with a cobra around his head. Phallic-shaped stone lingams are often protected by nagas.

Termite mounds are also associated with Shiva and a cobra found living in one is cause for celebration. Sometimes when one os found Tamil women build a wall around a snake-occupied mound and turn it into a shrine. If the snake stays in the mound priests visit and offerings of camphor and flowers are made. After years a temple may grow up around the mound.

Sometimes a crowd of will gather around a cobra. Usually the snake will make a hasty retreat to the nearest underbrush, but sometimes it will rear up in the middle of the crowd open it hood and make no attempt to strike those watching or to get away. When this happens women will sometimes roll their eyes and go into a trance, swaying back and forth within inches of the snake. This will go on for hours sometimes, with the snake just as entranced as the women and they are of the snake. When Miller asked a women about the experience she said, "Of course the Good Snake wouldn't bite us. To us Nulla Pambu is a manifestation of Lord Shiva. The god himself was there, and naturally we worshiped without fear.”

Cobra Festival


Snake Charmers in Benares 1904

The town of Shirala in west-central India hosts the Great Serpent Festival in July. Before it begins men spend weeks digging up the earth around their town looking for snakes. When a snake is caught it is handled reverently and placed in a large earthen pot. On the day of the festival the snake handlers parade the snake pots through the streets, followed by boys with red-washed monitor lizards carried high in the air tied to poles. According to Miller the lizards look as if they have been crucified. But apparently the ritual is not cruel; the lizards are regularly given water.

When the procession ends the snakes are let out of the their jars while handlers hold on to their tails. Parch rice is thrown in the the direction of the snakes and offerings are made. Bamboo sticks are used to control their movements and boys sit in front rolling pebble-filled pots back and forth. Miller said all of the snakes he examined had fangs "yet never throughout the day, did we see any of these hundreds of cobras attempt to strike their handlers."

Snake Charmers

Snake charmers, who play a bamboo-and-gourd flute as a snake stands up inside a basket, use cobras in their act. One snake charmer told journalist National Geographic, "The snakes like the music I play and do a dance for me.” But actually it is a myth that cobras are somehow charmed by flute music. It is the movement of the flute not the music that hypnotizes the cobra. When faced with a moving object, cobras naturally sit up and open their hoods and follow the movements. Cobras have no external ears and are essentially deaf to sound coming through the air, though they are sensitive to sound vibrations transmitted through the ground.

Snake charmers are generally very poor. They travel from place to place with their snakes in baskets and only a few other possessions, sometimes tied onto donkeys. Many of them feed off of wild animals their dog help them to catch. An average charmer may has three five-foot-long cobras that live for a about a year in captivity. The snakes are feed milk poured down their mouths with a spoon made from a sheep's leg bone, and given pieces of goat meat which are pushed down their throat with a blunt stick.

Snakes charmers often let their children play with their cobras. It is a matter of debate as to whether the snakes have been defanged or not. Of the hundreds of snakes examined by Miller and his assistants not one had its fangs intact. One snake charmer told journalist National Geographic, “When I catch a snake---we always catch our own snakes---I cut out the two little poison boxes it carries in its head."

Catching Cobras for Snake Charmers


Some cobras are caught by snake charmers themselves. Others are caught by farmers and sold to the snake charmers. The Baverias are a caste that use dogs to catch snakes for snake charmers. In any case the snake charmer trade take its toll on cobras. Some are killed during the capture process and generally those that are caught don’t live long in captivity.

Of the snakes examined by Miller most were suffering from starvation, because cobras are a sensitive snake and refuse to take food except under ideal conditions. They usually die within a couple of months of being sold to the charmers, either from starvation or abscess that develop wear their fangs had been ripped out.

The Wildlife Prevent Act of 1972 banned the catching of snakes. The ban was aimed at preventing the killing of snakes for their skin but also affected snake charmers. In the 1970s in Madras one tannery alone was processing 500 cobra skins a day.

In April 2002, Reuters reported: “A Bangladeshi snake charmer called in to find two serpents in a suburban home near Dhaka unearthed over 3,000 deadly cobras and hundreds of eggs. Police and local newspapers said snake charmer Dudu Miah captured over 3,500 young cobras at two houses in Narayanganj near Dhaka. The find, however, triggered panic among neighbours who fled their homes, police said. Newspapers said Miah was called in by Mantu Kasai after his wife found two large cobras on their property. Helped by his assistants, Miah dug beneath the floors of two houses and unearthed the slithering stockpile. Miah said he would look for more cobras elsewhere in the neighbourhood, but was undecided about what to do with his catch. Cobras, which are highly venomous and endemic to Bangladesh, often nest in houses -- frequently ridding them of rats and other domestic pests. [Source: Reuters, April 30, Tue Apr 30, 2002]

Snake Charmer Protest


In November 2004, angry snake charmers in Orissa in India threatened to let loose 5,000 snakes in the state assembly building to protest harassment under law. One charmer said, “We look after them as if they our children. We catch poisonous snakes, which intrude into households, tend to them in our homes and earn our livelihood by performing public shows.”

The BBC reported: Snake charmers in the Indian state of Orissa have threatened to release snakes in the state assembly in protest at a crackdown on their activities. Several snake charmers have been arrested in recent weeks and now face being prosecuted under wildlife protection laws. Representatives of the snake charmers say nearly 20,000 people could lose their jobs as a result of the drive. [Source: Sandeep Sahu BBC, November 24, 2004]

Wildlife activists in Orissa have campaigned hard to stop snake charming. They say it causes cruelty to the snakes. But Chittaranjan Das, the head of Padmakesharpur - a village of snake charmers on the outskirts of the Orissa capital, Bhubaneswar - said they had been engaged in the profession for centuries and would have no other source of livelihood if forced to stop.He denied the allegations of wildlife officials and activists that the charmers torture snakes during captivity. "How can we harm them when our whole livelihood depends on them?" he asked.

Sporting snakes on their shoulders and necks, the snake charmers said wildlife officials had been arresting them, seizing their snakes and placing them in the local Nandankanan zoo. "If earning money out of snakes is a crime, are the zoo authorities not doing the same by exhibiting them to the public?" asked Sanatan Behera, another snake charmer who has had seven of his snakes seized recently.

LAK Singh of the State Wildlife Organisation said snake charmers needed to realise that times had changed and that they needed to start looking for an alternative source of livelihood. The snake charmers say the government must provide them with an alternate source of income if they wanted to stop them from their present trade. But wildlife activists do not buy the argument. "It is a life versus livelihood question - the life of snakes and the livelihood of snake charmers," says Biswajit Mohanty, Secretary of the Orissa Wildlife Society. "And the life of snakes has to win in any battle between the two. They can have a different source of livelihood. But a snake cannot have a second life once killed," he said.

Cobras and Mongooses


Cobra and mongoose fights are often staged as a tourist attraction. The practice has been going for some time. Describing a battle between the mongoose Rikki-tikki-tavi and the cobra Naga, Rudyard Kipling wrote: "Eve to eye and head to head...This shall end when one is dead." Rikki-tikki-tavi was an Indian, or gray mongoose, a species known for killing cobras, even king cobras.

Mongooses usually win. They fight in a dart and weave fashion---provoking the snake to strike---until the snake wears itself out. When the snake tires the mongoose goes in for the kill by crushing the snake’s skull with its jaws. It was often thought that mongooses were able to defeat cobras due to their lighting quick reflexes. They also have an added advantage: an immunity to snake venom. Israeli researchers have found that mongooses can withstand 20 times the venom a mouse can, relative to their body size.

The cobra-mongoose fight staged for tourist are often said affairs. Describing one fight, Miller wrote, "The charmer provokes an emaciated mongoose into attacking a feeble cobra, then usually knocks the mongoose away before it can do any damage to the snake.” In the wild mongoose generally only go after small, young cobras. “Mongooses are highly intelligent animals,” Miller wrote, “and it seems unlikely to me they would try to get their dinner in such a difficult and dangerous way when frogs, toads and lizards can be had with no risk at all.”

Cobra Boxing and Kissing

Snake charmer shows in Myanmar often feature king cobras caught in the Mt. Popa region. The snakes are up to 15 feet long and as thick as a man's arm. During the climax of their shows, a snake charmer kisses the cobra on the mouth.

Some snake handlers claim that gently kissing a cobra calms them. One handler told National Geographic, “I know I have mastered the snake when I can touch it with my lips.” The photographer Mattias Klum wrote: the handler “had a way of calming it, slowly following its movements so he could reach out and caress its head. Finally he leaned in for the kiss.”

Ban Khok Sa-nga in northeastern Thailand used to be famous for its king cobra dishes until they were banned. Now it is known for its live cobra shows. “Boxing matches” are staged between king cobras and people, with the human participants earning a few coins, showing of off their manliness and attract buyers for herbal medicines and snake bite cures. Women in the King Cobra Club charge 25 cents a head to let tourist watch them dance with king cobra heads on their mouth.

Cobra Attacks


In October 1999, AFP reported: “At least 16 people have died following poisonous bites by the same snake in northern Nigeria, a top official said. All the victims were attacked by the cobra in the last 10 days in Birnin Kudu, the capital of the northern state of Kebbi, an official in the governor's office said. The snake attacked its victims one after the other, he said. A local journalist confirming the report said: "It would appear suddenly, strike a victim before disappearing, only to reappear to bite yet another." The official said the government was planning to launch a public campaign against overgrown weeds. People would also be given vaccines against snake bites. [Source: AFP, October 29 1999]

In August 2012, Reuters reported: “A Nepali man who was bitten by a cobra snake bit it back and killed the reptile in a tit-for-tat attack, a newspaper said. Nepali daily Annapurna Post said Mohamed Salmo Miya chased the snake, which bit him in his rice paddy, caught it and bit it until it died. "I could have killed it with a stick but bit it with my teeth instead because I was angry," the 55-year-old Miya, who lives in a village some 200 km (125 miles) southeast of the Nepali capital of Kathmandu, was quoted by the daily as saying. The snake, called "goman" in Nepal, is also known as the Common Cobra. Police official Niraj Shahi said the man, who was being treated at a village health post and was not in danger of dying, would not be charged with killing the snake because the reptile was not among snake species listed as endangered in Nepal. [Source: Reuters, August 23, 2012]

In a smilar story The Age reported in August 2002: “A cobra got more than it bargained for in eastern India after a female victim of its bite bit back, according to a report. India's United News reported Nasim Bibi, 25, of West Bengal, sank her teeth into the snake and killed it. Bibi was sleeping with her two children at her home in Hatikanda village when the cobra slithered in and sank its fangs. She woke up in pain to find the snake making its getaway. She grabbed it and bit down as hard as she could, killing it in the process. Police said Bibi received treatment for the snakebite at a local hospital [Source: The Age, August 15 2002]

Pet Cobra Attacks

In July 2000, The Star-Telegram in Fort Worth, Texas reported: “A man was in serious condition at a Fort Worth hospital yesterday after being bitten by an Egyptian cobra, a venomous but common snake often kept as a pet, authorities said. The man, whose name was not released, drove himself to Harris Methodist Fort Worth, hospital spokeswoman Ashley Wesson said. Antivenin to treat the man was flown to Fort Worth from the Dallas Zoo, zoo officials said. [Source: Bob Mahlburg Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, July 5, 2000]

In January 2001, Mark Holmberg wrote in the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Tom Townsend, a 42-year-old nuclear power plant engineer, had been keeping 50 to 60 poisonous snakes inthe basement of his rural Waverly home until he was bitten by one of his pet cobras, said Sussex County Sheriff Stuart Kitchen. " Townsend's wife was "really terrified" by the incident (the couple has young children), and Kitchen admitted he wasn't shy about "encouraging them" to get rid of the deadly snakes. [Source: Mark Holmberg, Richmond Times-Dispatch, January 17, 2001]

Deputies and rescuers responding to Townsend's 911 call for help were surprised by the extent of the collection, which filled padlocked cages throughout the entire basement. "There were 10 to 12 rattlesnakes alone," Kitchen said. "You could hear them rattling." One of Townsend's exotic vipers was so deadly, a state biologist called it a "two-stepper," Kitchen said. "You get bit, you take two steps and die." Townsend was just one of many "herp keepers" across the country who collect poisonous species, which is not illegal in Virginia. "This guy hadn't broken any laws," Kitchen said.

Rumors about Townsend's deadly snakes had circulated in the Waverly area for some time, and officials became worried that firefighters and rescuers could be endangered if there was ever a fire or flood at the Townsends' two-story home beside the Nottoway River. "But we couldn't find any law that would enable us to do anything about it," Kitchen said.

Saturday's bite changed all that. Townsend had been using tongs to feed a rat to a spectacled cobra from India - the deadly Naja naja naja species - when the snake dropped the rat and bit him on the first finger of his right hand. "He knew he was in trouble," Kitchen said. By the time rescuers had arrived, "he had written down a [medical] protocol to go with him to the hospital." Townsend also had applied a proper tourniquet. Deputy Sheriff Donnie Marrin knew as soon as he arrived that Townsend would not make it if he wastransported by ambulance, so he called for a helicopter.

Townsend was sitting up and talking to Marrin at first. But, by the time the helicopter lifted off, he was semiconscious and barely breathing. Ordering the helicopter was one of several key actions that saved Townsend's life, Kitchen said. Nurses at Virginia's Poison Center hit the phones, locating antivenin in New York City and Miami, and it was flown to Virginia Commonwealth University's Medical College of Virginia Hospitals. Townsend's hand is still swollen, but he is expected to make a full recovery. Kitchen said he believes Townsend's health insurance will be paying for the intensive and expensive rescue effort. "I know the sheriff's office isn't."

King Cobra Bite

In October 1999, AP reported: “An Eastern Kentucky man bitten by a 15-foot king cobra lived to tell the tale, but the snake wasn't so lucky. Jim Harrison, director of the non-profit Kentucky Reptile Zoo in Slade, was hospitalized. He was bitten on the thumb while treating the snake for pneumonia. The snake, lacking medical assistance while Harrison was at the University of Kentucky Hospital, died. The snake did not have a name. Harrison's bite is the 37th by a king cobra recorded in the world and the fifth in the United States, said Dr. Barry Gold, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. Gold is a consultant to zoos, aquariums and poison centers about snake bites. [Source: Kimberly Hefling, Associated October 28, 1999]

About one-third of the reported king cobra bites were fatal, Gold said. Harrison said this is the 12th time he's been bitten by a snake, but the first time by a king cobra. ``I'd rather talk about the times I've not been bitten than the times I have been bitten,'' he said. Harrison said he was fortunate in that he had plenty of antivenin on stock. ``Without antiserum and being prepared, I would've been dead,'' he said. Harrison took his own supply of antivenin with him to Lexington. Gold was contacted, and advised physicians in Lexington about how much antivenin to give Harrison. Harrison's symptoms included blurred vision, problems with numbness in his face, difficulty moving his tongue, severe headache and crushing chest pain, Gold said. ``Those were all symptoms to indicate he had sustained poisoning from the venom,'' Gold said.

Harrison was intravenously given 15 vials of antivenin. One day later, he walked out of the hospital, but could suffer side effects from the antivenin such as a rash. The Kentucky Reptile Zoo has about 1,500 snakes many of which are on display outside Natural Bridge State Resort Park. Researchers worldwide regularly purchase venom from the zoo for research of several diseases. It is also used in the production of antivenin for poisonous bites. Harrison said the problem now is that without the king cobra, the zoo has a big female cobra that no longer has a mate for the breeding season in February and March. ``We're trying to find her a boyfriend,'' he said.

King Cobra Alert in the Philippines

Reporting from Bansalan, Davao Del Sur, Orlando B. Dinoy wrote in the Philippine Daily Inquirer: “King cobras, which are not endemic in this town, have suddenly appeared and even started attacking humans, officials said. Since the start of the month, two farmers have already been killed by king cobras while a baby was spared because his parents were quick enough to parry the attack. [Source: Orlando B. Dinoy, Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 27, 2010]

Insp. Reyniel Raotraot, deputy chief of police, said the first victim was Alvin Ayuda, 28, a farmer in Barangay Tinungtongan. Raotraot said Ayuda was cutting trees in his backyard with two friends when the reptile attacked and bit him. Raotraot said Ayuda’s friend ran after the snake which also tried to strike him. Ayuda reached home and told his family that he was bitten by a snake. He died shortly without medication.

Raotraot said the second victim was Raul Oguit, 32, of Barangay Managa here. Relatives brought him to a hospital but he died on the way, he said. Raotraot said a king cobra found its way into the house of a family here and was seen near a sleeping baby. Raotraot said the baby’s father threw a rug at the snake to drive it away, but the snake wrestled with it. The baby’s parents struck the snake dead with a piece of wood.

On Tuesday, residents of Barangay Tinungtongan killed another king cobra. On Thursday, residents of Barangay Sibayan here also killed a king cobra, which was trying to cross the highway to their homes. All the snakes were suspected to be mature because their lengths exceeded two meters, Raotraot said. Raotraot said the snake attacks were alarming.

Chief Insp. Solomon de Castilla, Bansalan police chief, said police have launched an information drive on how to avoid being bitten by snakes. “Presence of mind is important and a person must have courage to kill them if he can’t avoid being bitten,” he said. Raotraot said police also advised residents to clean their backyards to remove possible hiding places of snakes. Government veterinarian Fermin Verallo said king cobras are not endemic to the province. He said king cobras were only previously seen in Davao Oriental and their entry here could be due to the intense heat brought about by El Niño. Verallo also said there are no available anti-venoms in the province and that victims have to be brought to Davao City to receive medication.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: National Geographic, Natural History magazine, Smithsonian magazine, Wikipedia, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, Top Secret Animal Attack Files website, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, The Economist, BBC, and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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