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By Express News Service

DEHRADUN: A study by the Uttarakhand forest department has identified vehicular traffic, forest  fires and other anthropogenic activities as threats to king cobra population in the hill state.  The study focussed on Nainital district which has a high population of the reptile.  Research scholar Jyoti Prakash Joshi said: “King cobra is a very shy animal. May be because of this, there are no reported incidents of king cobra bite despite the district having a high population of the reptile”.

According to data collected by the Forest Research Wing, five king cobra deaths (four hatchlings and one sub-adult) were reported from August 2020 to September 2021 due to road kill/vehicular traffic. Asserting that the actual deaths of the species may be on higher side, the study added, “This appears to be the single biggest reason for unnatural deaths of king cobra in this region.”

Joshi said to prevent king cobras from entering human habitation, it is important to involve local people in conservation programmes. Ruling out any threat due to trafficking, the study stated that no such case related to king cobra had been reported in the state. Also, forest fires could be indirectly affecting the king cobras. Often the snake builds nest using Chir Pine needle, which is susceptible to fire.

However, as per records, no king cobra death has been recorded due to forest fires. “The snake generally feeds on rat snakes which are dependent on small rodents. Fires can affect these rodents,  resulting in prey shortage,”  the study said.

Forest fires coincide with nesting periodForest fires could be indirectly affecting the king cobra population as the blaze coincides with the snake’s nesting period — April to June

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