The 14-foot-long king cobra, the latest addition to the National Zoological Park in Delhi, was in fact seized by the Rajhasthan Forest department from a resident who was trying to sell the snake.
This is the first king cobra that the Delhi zoo has had in the last 10 years. Officials said the snake weighs 7 kg and is between 25 and 30 years old.
“While I can’t comment about whether the snake was being poached, I can confirm that the Rajhasthan Forest department had seized the snake from a resident of Kota district, who was trying to sell the reptile. The court then ordered that the snake be given to a zoo and that is how it came to us,”Dr N Panneerselvam, senior veterinarian at Delhi zoo, said.
Panneerselvam said the cobra has no fangs. “The fangs will grow back. The king cobra is one of the most venomous snakes in the world. Its venom is a powerful neuro-toxin and is capable of delivering a fatal bite. We were able to ascertain the snake’s age on the basis of its length and weight,” he said.
The king cobra has two short fixed fangs, which act like hypodermic needles, pumping venom into its victim. The toxins in its venom affects the central nervous system, resulting in severe pain, blurred vision, vertigo, drowning and paralysis. In serious cases, this is followed by coma, respiratory failure and death.
The animal is listed as “vulnerable” in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of endangered animals. According to IUCN, the “species is threatened by destruction of habitat due to logging and agricultural expansion, as Southeast Asia is experiencing one of the highest rates of deforestation in the tropics”.
Officials said the snake is currently in quarantine in order to rule out any possibility of wounds or tick infestation. “The snake is shedding its skin and, as a result, it has become very reclusive and inactive,” an official said. The snake will soon be released into the reptile house for pubic view, officials said.
The cobra is presently being fed half-a-kilogram of chicken once a week, though officials added that its natural diet consists of smaller snakes, especially the rat snake. “We are sticking to chicken, as this was what it was fed while the snake was in the custody of the private owner,” the official said.
Lokamnath, a zoo official, has been assigned the task to train the animal. He reiterated that the snake was very inactive when it arrived at the zoo, but is now slowly moving about. “We make the animal exercise by releasing it in the park every day. It was very inactive when it was brought here, but gradually it is picking up its movements,” the trainer said.