Understanding king cobras: Why we should not kill them

By: Pia Piquero - Multimedia Reporter - CDN Digital | February 28,2024 - 04:06 PM

CEBU CITY, Philippines – King cobras, locally known as “banakon,” have recently been stirring residents of local communities in Cebu due to the numerous sightings of these reptiles.

From the first reported sighting on December 27 last year in San Fernando, a southern part of Cebu, to the most recent sighting on February 24 in Bulongan, Toledo City, there is no doubt that several local communities are now alarmed by these venomous snakes.

READ: TIMELINE: The unprecedented sightings of king cobras in Cebu

Despite the threat posed by king cobras and the concern they elicit within communities, local authorities and experts still advise against killing these reptiles.

Understanding king cobras

King cobras are equipped with some of the most potent venoms known to man. A single bite from this snake can dispatch 20 humans or even an elephant.

READ: IN THE KNOW: The king cobra

But research indicates that king cobras are primarily shy and reclusive, typically avoiding human interaction whenever possible.

Moreover, they exhibit captivating behavioral patterns, some of which are exclusive to their species. These cobras are particularly favored by snake charmers for their ability to captivate audiences.

Notably, while they possess the ability to sense vibrations, king cobras are deaf to ambient sounds. When charmed, they are more responsive to the visual cues of the charmer’s movements rather than the music emitted by the flute.

Additionally, female king cobras display remarkable maternal instincts, constructing nests and remaining coiled over their clutch of eggs throughout the incubation period, which spans approximately 60 to 90 days.

Why should we not kill king cobras?

In an interview with Jessica Maribojoc, head of Cebu City’s Department of Veterinary Medicine and Fisheries (DVMF), she emphasized the significant role all species, including king cobras, play in the environment, which she termed as “symbiotics.”

READ: City vet: ‘Do not kill king cobras if you’re not threatened’

Maribojoc explained, “Naa man gud sad ni silay ‘symbiotic function’ sa environment. Nahulog man jud na sila nga predator; [example] if naay mga ilaga, kana sila, sila pud ang naga control.”

(They also have a symbiotic function in the environment. They are indeed predators; for example, if there are rats, they also control them.)

For context, a symbiotic relationship refers to a mutually beneficial interaction between different organisms living together.

Maintain ecosystem balance

Research supports the notion that king cobras are vital for maintaining ecosystem balance.

They play a crucial role in controlling the population of other snakes, especially venomous ones, by preying on them.

Furthermore, contrary to common misconceptions, king cobras are not typically aggressive towards humans. They usually enter human settlements while in pursuit of their prey.

Moreover, snake venom, particularly from king cobras, is intriguing due to its medicinal potential.

Studies have identified a unique protein in king cobra venom called ohanin, which does not fit into conventional venom categories. While small amounts of ohanin induce pain sensitivity and reduced activity in mice, researchers have harnessed its properties effectively.

They have successfully developed painkillers that are 20 times more potent than morphine, without causing any side effects, suggesting the untapped potential of king cobra venom in treating diseases such as cancer or diabetes.

King cobras are critically endangered

Moreover, Dr. Alice Utlang, Cebu City’s special assistant on veterinary, agriculture, and fishery concerns, noted the critical status of king cobras, classifying them as “critically endangered” due to their dwindling numbers and the looming threat of extinction.

READ: Utlang calls for preservation of king cobras: ‘They do not attack unless provoked

Research reveals a troubling decline of approximately 30 percent in India’s king cobra population over the past 75 years, primarily attributed to habitat destruction and rampant harvesting from the wild.

While the Department of Natural Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region 7 attributes recent sightings of king cobras in Cebu to mating season and the gradual effects of El Niño, further research suggests additional reasons.

READ: Why are there several sightings of king cobras in Cebu?

They face significant challenges, including forced migration to nearby villages due to extensive deforestation and ecological disturbances caused by poachers.

These disruptions severely impact their natural habitat, leading them to seek refuge in human settlements.

While the migration of these reptiles to communities may be driven by the need for refuge, residents cannot help but feel threatened by their venomous nature.

Unfortunately, this fear often leads to many of these snakes falling victim to road accidents and deliberate human attacks, further intensifying the threats to their survival. /with reports from WorldAtlas: Why The King Cobra Needs To Be Saved?

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TAGS: animals, snakes

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