Medical SnakeBite Symposium Rotterdam at the Harbour Hospital and TravelClinic Insitute of Tropical Disease

True my work as Herpetologist for the Harbour Hospital and TravelClinic Institute for Tropical Disease we organized on Thursday evening the 11th of October 2012 a Symposium on Venomous snake bites.

The Logo of the Workgroup Venomous Snakes of the Harbour Hospital Institute of Tropical Disease in Rotterdam the Netherlands

The Logo of the Workgroup Venomous Snakes of the Harbour Hospital Institute of Tropical Disease in Rotterdam the Netherlands

The Symposium is organized by the Venomous Snake Workgroup this group put together for education on snakebites in the Netherlands, as well as starting a National good functioning Antivenom Depot, good snakebite protocols and courses on how to deal with venomous snakes and snakebites.This group has the following members;

David Overbosch MD PhD, Internist and former Director of the Travelclinic Institue of Tropical Disease and Founder of the workgroup Vneomous Snakes

Perry van Genderen MD PhD, Internist and Director of the Travelclinic Institute of Tropical Disease

Lennert Slobbe MD PhD, Internist at the Travelclinic Institute of Tropical Disease

Henk Koene, Scientific researcher at the Travelclinic Institute of Tropical Disease

Marlies Hofland Cakir, Project Coördinator, at the Travelclinic Institute of Tropical Disease

Richard Mastenbroek, Herpetologist/ venomoussnake expert at the Travelclinic Institute of Tropical Disease

Vincent Troost, Private Venomous snakekeeper

From Left to right; Paul Rowley, Johan Marais, Lennerty Slobbe, Perry van Genderen, Richard Mastenbroek and Vincent Troost

Foto door: Rob Smit Copyright: freezefotografie@gmail.com From Left to right; Paul Rowley, Johan Marais, Lennerty Slobbe, Perry van Genderen, Richard Mastenbroek and Vincent Troost

The Symposium was the first venomous snakebite symposium ever held in the Netherlands and With around 70 medicals, doctors, internists, zookeepers and custom officers we had a great evening. Because of this symposium was such a succes we are planning on doing it next year again and hopefully bigger.

Programme existed out of 5 speakers including 2 very well known and respected Herpetologists Johan Marais author of several books on snakes and other reptiles in South Africa and Paul Rowley Curator of the venom lab at the Liverpool Snakebite Unit.

MD PhD Perry van Genderen gave a lecture about a web-based survey under Dutch Venomous snake keepers.

Me and MD PhD Lennert Slobbe did a talk about first aid and following up hospital treatment on snakebites.

The evening ended with a educational talk with live constrictor snakes so guest were able to feel and hold a snake and ask question about the subject.

Than some pictures of the symposium

Foto door: Rob Smit Copyright: freezefotografie@gmail.com

Kings and Queens first part of a mini King Cobra video by The Sticky Tongue Project

A few months ago my good friend Iwan Hendrikx came to my place to make a little video doc. about the my King Cobras.
Iwan and his girl firend Candace M Hanson are owner of the Sticky Tongue Project.

Addressing biodiversity, conservation and wildlife news & issues.
Home of The Herparazzi: a wildlife documentary video series featuring reptiles and amphibians.

What is the The Sticky Tongue Project?

The Sticky Tongue Project is about the gathering and sharing of information centered around wildlife, biodiversity and science news from around the planet, with a special focus on reptiles and amphibians.

What is the goal behind the project?

By sharing this information, The Sticky Tongue Project hopes to inform and inspire a large audience to appreciate the biodiversity around the world. We hope this will then inspire people to help preserve it both in and beyond their backyards.

Within a couple of months of being launched, this site was ranked as the #1 Biodiversity site in 2010 by the renowned Dr. Stuart Pimm of Duke University. In his review he stated that, “The Sticky Tongue is a quirky, imaginative approach to informing and educating about biodiversity and conservation.”

How have we set out to achieve this goal?

Articles are categorized, often with a direct link to the original publication (.pdf downloadable format). With over 2,000 articles on the site, there’s a good chance you’ll find something that you’re interested in. When you’re interested in a certain category just click on it and all articles in that category will be shown. All articles are tagged with keywords as well, so you can easily gather all articles on the site with the particular keyword you’re looking for. Just click on it!

thestickytongueproject

Out In The Field

As part of The Sticky Tongue Project we’ve been documenting our field trips in search of various reptiles and amphibians across the globe. You can find these reports in the Field Expeditions category.

We’ve launched our own online video series, ‘The Herparazzi’ which can be found here.

The Sticky Tongue Project encourages readers to go out and photograph or film wildlife and scenery. You can share your photo’s, video’s or links to your albums on our Facebook Fan Page for everyone to see. If you love frogs and toads, be sure to check out our NEW iFrogography Project.

Video Kings and Qyeens

Kings and Queens from The StickyTongueProject on Vimeo.

A short video featuring the King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), filmed in a private collection.

A bacterial infection

You take care for your animals on the highest possible level, but animals can get sick and one of the females King Cobras had a Bacterial infection which resulted in less than 1,5 day in extreme ways. The left side of the upper and lower jaw and the venom gland were swollen enormous which resulted in the left eye being popped out of the socket. A terrible sight to see and I do not want imagine what this poor snake felt like.
I have seen similar infections before in Oxyuranus scutulatus “canni” and Naja kaouthia and knew it was a septicemia and that the treatment of this would be a very long and stressful road for the King Cobra and me as well.
A septicemia is a wide variety of bacteria that can cause generalized internal infections. These bacteria may enter the body by wounds, abcesses or a other serious illness originally localized in the respiratory, gastrointestinal and reproductive tracts. Signs may be subtle or obvious and may include lethargy, anorexia, dehydration, and regurgitation of incompletely digested food, redness to the skin and scales, or bleeding from the skin. As this snake was in perfect physical conditions before, well fed and recently shedded in one piece there was no reason to look out for a deeper cause. As the bacteria were that aggressive and local it must have originated from a little wound in the mouth. My guess is by rat teeth as she is an unhandy feeder. After contacting my veterinarian Dr. Marja Kik. http://www.kikdierenarts.nl/ we decided to put her on a 10 day antibiotic programme of Baytril 5% injectable solution which had to be injected in the muscle.
For the popped out eye we could only hope it would go back in the socket as the swelling should stop quickly after a few days of antibiotics.
As the infection came through a wound in the mouth of this snake I was worried about Mouth Rot (Infectious or Ulcerative Stomatitis) a progressive bacterial infection involving the oral lining. It begins with increased salivation. Quite often saliva bubbles are seen on the sides of the mouth. Close inspection of the oral lining reveals small pinpoint areas of bleeding. The oral lining becomes increasingly inflamed and pus (so called cheese) begins to accumulate within the mouth, especially among the rows of teeth. As the disease progresses, the underlying bone becomes infected which results in the teeth falling out. This infection must be recognized in the early stages to successfully reverse it so I needed to treat that as well, by cleaning out the mouth with 1/5 dilution of water-peroxide. As the complete treatment would give allot of stress, I needed to give her some extra vitamins of the A, B and C complex by injectable. Fortunately the antibiotics did their job quickly and on the third day the swelling was already half way gone. Besides, the eye seemed to go back into the socket. A king cobra is a snake that hunts on sight and a king with only one eye would be terrible for the snake. On the 4th day the king showed that she came up for a new shed again. As the shedding period of a snake is a period in which they are using allot of energy, this worried me. As she was sick but still very strong. The days after that she seemed to progress, the swelling was completely gone after 7 days of antibiotics and the eye was placed back in the socket but only the eyelid still came out and was dried out and necrotic. So the eye would never be as it was before and time would tell what her disability will be.
The following days she improved by the day, drank on a daily basis but lost some weight. So getting her on food asap was important. On the 16th of November she tried to shed her skin, but failed to do so, so I gave her a good soak in a bath of hand warm water which she very much enjoyed, this also helped her to remove 90% of the old skin but it got stuck on her head because of her dried out eyelid. Therefore I need to remove that by hand. Fortunately she ate the next day.

When the King Growls


While most snakes hiss, the king cobra lets out a growling moan. This growl that’s sounds dog like from a distance. I mostly identify the sound with the wind that blows true a pvc pipe, but more impressive and powerfull.
I knew the loud hiss of a puffadderr (Bitis arietans), the Russels viper (Dabioa russeli) also has a impressive his, for non venomous we have bull snakes of the genus, Pituophis that produce a loud hiss, all nothing in comparison to the mighty King Cobra with his growl.
The growling is used to let intruders or potential predators know that the snake is perturbed and ready to strike. A captive King Cobra is not easy to exasperate. They calm down allot and will hood up more from curiosity. But sometimes you do something they wont appreciate and they will let you know, the first signs are the left or right jaw going to hang and starts to vibrate, than the growl will come every time it happens it surprises me how much noise they can produce, often wondering if the neighbours can hear them to? To produce this loud growling sound, the king cobra fills its lungs with air, then quickly constricts its body. This forces the air through the glottis, the space between the vocal cords, resulting in a long growling sound. A special resonating chamber in the snake’s tracheal lung may give the sound its characteristic low pitch, which is unique among snakes.

Click on this link below to hear a soundclip of the growling of a King Cobra
GROWLING KING COBRA

Reference Abstract:

J Exp Zool. 1991 Dec;260(3):275-87.
Morphological basis of “growling” in the king cobra, Ophiophagus hannah.
Young BA.
Source
Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Abstract
A bioacoustic analysis is conducted on the defensive sounds produced by 21 species of snakes. The “typical” snake hiss is described as having a broad-frequency span (from roughly 3,000 to 13,000 Hertz) and a dominant frequency near 7,500 Hertz. The “growl” of the king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) differs from the “typical” snake hiss in consisting solely of frequencies below 2,500 Hertz, with a dominant frequency near 600 Hertz. Structural analysis of the upper respiratory tract of O. hannah suggests that the “growl” is produced by tracheal diverticula functioning as low-frequency resonating chambers. This hypothesis is supported in several ways. An acoustic analysis of a mechanical model of the trachea demonstrates the potential for these diverticula to produce resonance effects. A “growl” also occurs in the mangrove ratsnake (Gonyosoma oxycephalum), a species that also has tracheal diverticula. Flushing the respiratory tract of G. oxycephalum with helium produces a shift of over 1,000 Hertz in the “growl,” a shift that is indicative of a resonance effect.

PMID: 1744612 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1744612

Questions from Site visitors: 3 months old Food refusing babies from India

Almost on daily base I get questions about King Cobras, most questions are the so called FAQ that I can easily answer with a sort note and link to an article on this website. In some cases I get far more difficult question that need more attention and research I also can not answer any question by my self as the experience I have with King Cobras in captivity is not a long term one, but the knowledge of almost 20 years in venomous snakes does help allot, and also the broad network of fellow herpers and king keepers/breeders I know I drain from their knowledge.

Today again I got an interesting question which was not answered by referring to an article on the website. Which made me decide to start to post these question and the answers I gave them and hope that other King Keepers/breeders or field observers can give tips and there opinion on the subjects. So we can help each other and our beloved King Cobras.

As the person of the question is an snake keeper from India his name will be replaced for a fictional name as keeping snakes as pet in India is illegal.

Today I got a message on my facebook account from Jan which asked me the following question.

Jan: I’m from NE India. I need help in raising baby kings (this year hatchlings). Can you help?

Ophiophagus.nl:
yes i can help and show you how I raise them successfully check this link http://ophiophagus.nl/?page_id=337 its a article I wrote about raising baby king cobras. But this manual is written for kings that are be kept in captivity I don’t know if you want to keep or sell them, or release them in the wild in that case please only feed snakes that occur in the area, they like Ptyas korros, and Trimeresurus species the best, but also baby naja naja can be fed to them. if you have any questions feel free to ask them I will do my best to answer them.

Harchling can be hard to start feeding but if feeding on their own they are always hungry

Harchling can be hard to start feeding but if feeding on their own they are always hungry

Jan wrote back : They are 3 months old. Problem is they are extremely timid and seems like they are afraid of anything alive and moving. We tried feeding them with live snakes, lizards, geckos and skinks but they wouldn’t touch a thing. Then we switch to serving them with dead snakes, still, they wouldn’t touch. But they happily feed on dead skinks and geckos. 
What could be the reason?

Ophiophagus.nl:
Oke I understand the problem I have had that to. I kept each baby in a tank of 60 x 30 x 30 cm make sure you have some branches, twigs form a tree or bush so they can climb up in there and look down on their prey, baby kings need to get confident in feeding ( I always say its like a boy that goes in his first fight its scary but easier when the situation is overview) feed them in daytime around 2 hours before the sun hits the highest point. Use a substrate from dirt/with sand that is solid but easy to dig in put 2 pieces of bark from a tree in it as shelter and they will make a burrow with 2 exits. Make sure they can not see each other and that there is a good air flow. First try to offer fresh killed snakes Xenopeltis or Ptyas babies are great, you can cut the head a little open or a few little slides in the body of the dead feeder snake so more smell emerges form the prey. if the enclosure is like this and you feed on this way I feel confident that most of them start to feed on their own, the ones that still wont accept the prey, you pin down and force feed just 5 – 7 cm of the feeder snake to the king and than put it back 99 out of 100 kings start to swallow the prey as their biological clock says its the way. and they will eat form that day. I hope this helped and please keep me informed.

I will update this post when I have more news from Jan.

After Dinner

After Dinner and an exciting day

This afternoon I defrosted the last 500 grams rat I had in the fridge so its empty for the next bunch that I get delivered tomorrow. When I came home this evening from a meeting at the Haven Hospital. A hospital with a travel clinic specialized in tropical diseases. This hospital in Rotterdam is also the leading hospital when it comes to snake bites in Holland.

Pandoras box symposium on tropical disease and snake bites in the WTC Rotterdam on the 25th of November 2011

Pandoras box symposium on tropical disease and snake bites in the WTC Rotterdam on the 25th of November 2011


Every year the travel clinic organizes a symposium with guest speakers on several subject on tropical disease and this year I’m one of the guest speakers which I do with a friended Doctor and Director of the Institute for tropical disease Dr. D.Overbosch FRCP at the World Trade Centre in Rotterdam on the 25th of November which is really exciting for me, I have spoke many times before but mostly for schools, groups in zoos and other places I worked in the past and a few symposiums for reptile people. This crowd will be different with a group of 700 Doctors and other medical academics. http://www.travelclinic.com/congres

When I was at this meeting the rat was defrosted and I attached a piece of cornsnake to the head of the rat and fed it to Chaveron the biggest of the Malayan Kings I’ve got. Walked back to the computer and chatted on FB with a friend and totally forgot that I wanted to shoot some feeder pictures, till the time I realized that the rat was swollen and I could just see the last tip of the tail slight in to Chaverons throat. To late! Or not he still needed to gape and drink. Waiting for minutes camera ready for attack without moving a muscle and than he started to gape after this he crawled to water tank and drunk allot which Kings do only from fresh water. I was able to make some nice picturews and a short movie that you can see below.

SEARCHING FOR THE KING a Story of a Herper in the Agumbe

This article is written by Nazzareno Miele a facebook friend and joined King Cobra fan, its about his adventure at Agumbe Rainforest in the Western Gaths in India were he met Romules Whitaker and Gowri Shankar to have a life time expierience in seeing King Cobras in their natural envoirment.

Nazzareno with a Boiga ceylonensis

SEARCHING FOR THE KING
Nazzareno Miele

Some define my passion “disgusting”, some “dangerous”, diplomatics “interesting”, my unusual passion is about reptiles, particuarly snakes. This reportage is written by an herper, the focus are snakes, herping and the obsession for the king cobra: the Holy Grail of herp hobbyst and herpetologist. In february I receive the call for army for the Crusade in the Holy Land (the search for the king in Karnataka): my friend Ruggero (Roger) call me to invite for a travel in India. We will be guests in the research centre that the Indian herpetologist Rom Whitaker is building in Agumbe. The king cobra is THE dream of every herper; only a few can look at it in the wild, but with the “king cobra man” there are chances that the dream comes true: it is absolutely impossible for me to miss this opportunity! I accept the invitation and fly to India. When I land, I wait for a breath of exotic smells : I had so read in guides and reportages, but only warm and high dampness were waiting for me. The first thing I think is that if I had scales, I would like to live in Bombay.
The following day we fly again and we arrive at Mangalore, where a driver is waiting for us to take us towards our destination: Agumbe.
After two hours we reach Agumbe, a small village with 400 people at about 800 metres above sea-level on the Western Ghats (Ghats means “steps”), mountains about 915 metres highs, a line parallel to the cost that creates steep slopes on the Arabic sea and degrades in the fertile cost of Malabar; These mountains are rich in evergreen tropical forests and woods with deciduous plants. They are very rich in fauna and flora, almost 27% of the flower-plants in India, most of them are endemic.
We arrive to the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station (ARRS) where P. Gowri Shankar, researcher and educator, is waiting for us. He is kind and nice towards us, all our stay long. The place is wonderful, in the heart of the forest, near a little plantation of palms and I can not wait to go and search for snakes.
In the centre the preparations are well under way: when we arrive, the workers are repairing the roof. We go herping for a while and, as we come back, the workers show us a worm-snake, Ramphotyphlops braminus. These little snakes are as a maximum 16 cm long, have vestigial eyes and eat exclusively ant larvae and termites. Their scientific name comes from “Brahmin”, a Hindu caste. This Indian snake has colonized a lot of tropical and subtropical regions because it goes as a clandestine in the potting compost of the exported plants: from here the common name “flowerpot snake”. This is the single species known as partogenetic : they are all female specimen that reproduce asexually. After dinner we go herping in the dark on the edge of the wood: we walk about three hours but we do not find anything slithering.
Gowri looks at a lori , talks about animals that it is possible to see in the night and explains that exactly there he met twice a leopard: we do not have to worry about it, because it is not fortunately a ”man eating leopard”. I prefer not to learn in depth the food habits of this elegant feline, however the single signs of its presence here are excrements and claws on a tree.
When we just want to throw up the sponge, I spot my first Indian snake: a young Boiga ceylonensis, a beautiful endemic coluber of Sri lanka, Western Ghats and of the Maharashtra.
The following day, very early, we start our second day of herping. Along the torrent Roger sees a very little Amphiesma beddomei, a Natricinae endemic of the Western Ghats: will be the only snake of the day.
The following day Rom Whitaker comes to control the works in the centre. Whitaker is “the snake man of India”, a worldwide famous herpetologist and the most important expert of kings in the world. Has published several works and has filmed a lot of documentaries, two of them are about the king cobra.
Rom is a friendly and funny person and in listening to his adventure stories is an unforgettable experience. The period of time Rom is together with us, talks about India and Indians, animals, his journeys and his documentaries and he also tells us about the importance of the research centre in order to study the king cobra. I am enchanted of his dream of this research station in the centre of the forest, self-sufficient because of the solar panels in summer and of a hydroelectric station to produce energy in the season of the monsoons. Rom has got a lot of ideas to search for funds and to help people in the village of Agumbe, to let people of the tribes work as guides ( no one knows better forests and animals) ; in this way they do not have to exploit the natural resources of their country to live. He is sure that it is the unique possibility to save the forest, the animals and his great love: the king cobra.
Rom tells us that he choose Agumbe as base station because it is the ideal habitat of the king cobra and also because in 1971 he met there his first king: while he was camping in the forest, he could just see a very fast snake hiding in a bush; he thought it was a ratsnake and after capturing it by the tail, he heard a strange growl ….. he raised his eyes and sighted a king that was looking at him up and down : I would not have been in the same situation!
Explains that the ground where the centre is situated belonged to a Brahman : the presence of little temples in the area is an evident sign. Rom collected the necessary money to build the centre thanks a prize offered by the “Whitley Fund For Nature” because of his engagement in the protection of the rainforest. In the afternoon we decide to go herping near the centre. Rom advices to go round the pond, where we could find something interesting. Though the little pond was my favourite place, I did not have explored carefully its perimeter, because I was afraid of spattering with mud my bright sandals. This time I decide to face frogs and tadpoles and I happily sink in the mud following the advise of the “India snake man”… my second sighting! It is a beautiful male specimen of Trimeresurus malabaricus.
We receive later the first warning for a king cobra: a specimen had been seen in the village. We arrive there in few minutes, between the houses and the wood, but unfortunately the cobra is not waiting for us. We mount a search, but we can not find it. Thanks to this warning, we have an idea of the habitat where it is easier to find a king: near the houses and in half built up areas. That is why in these areas they find their favourite preys (ratsnakes)
Gowri tells us that in the last two years, in Agumbe, he had met Ophiophagus hannah only four times in the forest, but he had frequently found the animals in these half built up areas, mostly thanks to signals of the natives.
After a rescue in a school, when we come back to Agumbe, some guys take us to a garden where a cobra had been seen. We look around for a while and we see a big head of Naja naja from a hole at the base of a tree. We can not take it out: the owners of the ground are very religious and are afraid we could hurt the snake. After a few hours, they tell us that the snake went out of the hiding-place; we run in order to look for it.
Gowri finds it in a warm place, in a hen-house under a hen. He grabs the snake by the tail and explains that the Naja naja are not difficult to handle: grab the snake by the tail and let it swing, when it makes an attempt to get on hand, put it on the ground, but raise it on high again, when it comes near feet.
We would like to leave the cobra far from the houses, but we are not allowed because the owners want the cobra to stay in their garden. Rom tells us that the owners know that the animal is deadly, but they believe it will not bite them. The cobra has a particular meaning in the Hindu symbolism and they believe that worshippers of this animal will never be bitten.
The following days we go out for walks in the rice-fields, in the forest and along the rivers; we find only some snake shedding. We know well that it is not easy to find snakes in nature, but we are in any case happy because we met a boiga, a cobra, a viper and some other little snakes. If we could see an Ophiophagus Hannah, India would give us a wonderful present.
In the meantime we have another signalling for a king, just in the suburbs of Agumbe : we reach the place as soon as possible, but we only take a lot of ticks.
Gowri decides to let us visit the places he had found nests of king the previous years.
We first stop in a village where we meet an old snake- hunter: this strange man, who had only a few teeth in his mouth, had captured a lot of king in his life. The last one just the day before, just our luck!
Then we visit a wonderful forest and Gowri shows us the place where in 2004 a female king cobra had been seen while it was building a nest. Only the king (and Pituophis) build their nests. Someone thinks that a female goes away a few days before the birth because it does not want to eat the young snakes; on the contrary, our guide believes that babies are too small to whet mother’s appetite.
Gowri tells us that he had built a hiding-place just in front of the nest. For almost two months he had observed the behaviour of the female from the building of the nest to the birth of hatchlings. When I read Gowri’s annotations, I was surprised in learning that the average incubation temperature is only 24°C. Breeders often make the mistake to incubate the eggs at very high temperatures . This causes backbone’s and head’s deformations.
Gowri likes the ophidians a lot: one day he told us: “I dream of snakes, live of snakes, breathe snakes”.He dedicated his life to the study of the king : not many people would spent two months to observe the behaviour of a snake in a poor hiding-place in the forest, in the period of the monsoons, when the humidity in the air is 100%.
While we are coming back, we visit a farmer, Gowri’s friend , who loves snakes. A week before our arrival he had captured a king; in his life he had captured more than 30.
We feel that cobra are always surrounding us, but we can find none!
In the evening, a telephone call informs us that a king had been seen. Maybe we will be lucky.
We go by car and we hope that we can find something. A lot of people are waiting for us: it is a good omen! They tell us that a big cobra was on the edge of the road. It was afraid of people, that is why it had taken shelter on a tree. Other people had come and see the show, but this time, the frightened snake had taken shelter into a plastic pipe.
First Gowri and then Roger bent down and turned the ray of the torch towards a hole of the pipe …IT IS A KING! From the bottom of the pipe we can see an enormous, unmistakable beautiful BIG head of a king cobra! At last we meet a king ! Gowri ties a sack at the end of a pipe, so that he can kindly let the snake slide inside after having teased it with a long bamboo cane.
We live in a state of great tension ….. but the night has come and only the following day, with the help of the rangers, we will free the king. In the morning, we wake up early: we are anxious to see the animal at the sunlight. To look at it, we run so many kilometres. We arrive at the research centre, but in few minutes we receive another call : a big cobra has come into an house. We hoped it was another king, but it is impossible to find two kings within a few hours!
In half an hour we reach the destination, a beautiful villa at the edge of a plantation. The proprietors receive us kindly; we come in and just at the entrance, under the shoe cabinet, between slippers and shoes, we find a cobra, a big cobra: IT IS ANOTHER KING!
After ten days of unsuccessful researches, we find now, in less than 12 hours, 2 kings: perhaps the drizzling rain of the previous day had let the snakes come out and our dreams come true! Adult kings are too big to put them into the bag by bagging. Gowri tries to pull the snake into the bag by tubing: a technique that Gowri and Rom improved by experience; it consists in introducing a part of a plastic pipe into a bag and putting everything on the ground, possibly along the edge of a wall, or simulating an entrance of a “ hiding place “ with some stones, trunks, or other materials that fasten the tube. In this case the king cobra will mistake the tube for a den and it will come into the bag of its own free-will; the previous night had happened the same, without human help.
But this cobra is more cunning than we expected because it does not want to enter into the bag. The king got annoyed and jumped suddenly; it went out of the shoe cabinet and it rose for almost a metre from the ground : it wanted us to remember it was the king. Our first face to face with a hood of Ophiophagus hannah is not too bad : I will remember that storm of adrenalin for ever. Gowri understands that is more careful to let the cobra come out from the house, so he grab its tail and carries the kalinga outside, where he is able to let the snake enter into the bag at last,thanks to the well-known technique of the tubing.
Gowri is the ideal man for this job, not only because he is an expert of king, an able handler of venomous snakes and he is willing to accept any condition to work together with these animals, but also because he is a good talker , in fact he can properly talk to the natives: explains, laughs and jokes with them. He is very nice and turns out likeable to all and the natives know him. He is aware that only in such a way he can be sure to be contacted in case of new encounters with snakes on the side of the population! Every time he captures and subsequently sets a king free, he records the locality of release with a device gps, weights the animal and notes down every sensitive data and this time does not represent sure the exception.
We go into the rangers’office with the inhabitants of the house. All the animals are protected in India since 1972 from the Indian Wildlife Act, and also the king cobras cannot be captured and set free without the supervision of the ranger. The ranger is happy to show the foreigners the way of working in India and, after a cup of tea, we go and set the king free far away from the inhabited centre, in the middle of a forest. After making a note of the collected data, Gowri sets the snake free; the speed is indeed amazing : this majestic animal of beyond three meters disappears among the leaves in a fraction of a second.
In the afternoon, before setting the other king free, we carry the cobra in an open space for a photographic service. I have only a small 50mm lens that takes me close to the snake, but I do not have anything to be afraid of : the two greatest kings’ experts in the world, Rom and Gowri, attend to my safety.
Gowri and Rom tell us that the specimens we found are two males: they understand it from the fair colour and from the shape of the head: it is enormous. Gowri shows us some photos of very beautiful black females with yellow bands, and he explains that, probably, the darkest colour is useful for the female to take more heat for the incubation of the eggs; the males, evidently, do not have the same need.
The kings have also another peculiarity: unlike other snakes that emit a hissing sound, if they are annoyed emit a deep murmuring like a dog growl. This murmuring is produced by the tracheal diverticulum that works like a low frequency resounding chamber.
The king can raise from the ground until to a third party of their length and, . unlike other cobras, when they are straight can also crawl forward and attack: we noticed that during the photographic session.
Our hosts explain that the kings, when bite, chew a lot and the more they chew the most is the poison they are able to inject. For this reason, in bite case, it is necessary to try to open the mouth without pulling the animal because it could chew with more violence.
When we feel satisfied with the photos, we set the king free. This specimen disappears quickly in the forest, too. The shy character of this animal, that would rather escape when it is possible, bites nearly exclusively if grabbed.
In the evening we meet another slithering little animal: the people who are working on the restructure of the centre call us because they have sighted a snake. We follow them and Gowri seizes in a bush a specimen of Xenocrophis piscator. a very common Natricinae, famous for its “ferocity”.
In the evening we talk with Rom about the king. He tells us that the classification of this species will change. In fact the specimens are very different and new studies and researches will let us know much more about the behaviour of this wonderful animal. The research centre in Agumbe will play a very important role with Romulus Whitaker and Gowri’s guidance
In the morning we get up early in order to find as soon as possible our third king cobra, when we receive another call, more urgent than the previous one: a king had fallen in a well not far from there. We catch up the sink, but unfortunately it does not deal with an Ophiophagus hannah: it is a big specimen of Naja naja. The elapid keeps still and lies on its back. I think it is dead, but Gowri quickly understands that it is alive: it has the head supported on the belly and it is immovable because it is very tired.
After several efforts with rope and hook, Gowri can pull it up: the specimen is really big, male, and weights 2 kg at least.
During the last two days in Agumbe we receive other calls for kings but we do not see other snakes. On 26.th March, we are satisfied for the incredible experience, but also sad because we have to greet the kindest Gowri, the quiet Agumbe, its charming forest and all the king cobras that live there. After a day in Mangalore and a night in Bombay we catch a plane for Milan, where the usual March climate is waiting for me.
After months, I often come back with my fantasy on the Western Ghats. I think of my long walks in the rice-fields or in the edge of the forest or around the small pond behind the research centre; it will remain for ever in my mind the sight of the majestic king cobra, and I still ear its deep growl. This experience with Roger, Gowri and Rom has been the most amazing one of my life. I hope that mine has not been a farewell, but only a good bye to the ARRS and my Indian friends, the Ophiophagus hannah, and all the amazing herpetofauna of that charming country that is India.

In respond on the topic Informative site on the Venom Land forums

Unfortunately the post of my friend Udo Schutte to show the website Ophiophagus.nl on the venomland forums raised a few questions from some of the members. On which I repleyed with the following post.
I hope this will end the negative twist some people like to give on the website.

Hmong tribal in Northern Thailand with a Banded King Cobra we collected in 1984. picture by Tom Crutchfield

Hmong tribal in Northern Thailand with a Banded King Cobra we collected in 1984. picture by Tom Crutchfield


Hello All,

To answer the question of Mr. Davidson

Perhaps the owner of Ophiophagus.nl will explain for us all the ‘valuable information’ that we might be enlightened with by free handling a live venomous snake? Sincerely, Jon Davidson .

As this topic is brought to my attention I wanted to reply on it and try to explain why I build the site and why I will use in some circumstances free handling pictures.

I build the Website Ophiophagus.nl because its my favourite species of snake in the world. There behaviour, intellect and looks opinion the greatest in the world, As I like to gather as much info on them as possible, and have my own observations.
I decided to create a site that could gather and share information over this wonderful serpent a snake known by all, but for a snake that well known there is not much information available. And I wanted this to change.

A website that could help for keepers and even more important to give captive kings a good and healthy life.

The comments on the Hexarmor or so called venom defender gloves. I still do not trust them or use them for the reason I posted here on the forum before. Mark Dainty and Nicole Yeomans both know my opinion about this subject and respect that as I respect it that Mark feels comfortable with these gloves and working with them. There for I do not mark the gloves as free-handling but as another tool like snake hooks or tongs. The picture of Mark Dainty handling adult kings with gloves on the website are only posted to give a image with the post written on the blog pat of the site. As the Kings were on a long road trip down from Nottingham and were bagged and boxed they weren’t to happy which off course gave the opportunity to make some pictures with open mouth etc.. I keep those kings not as toys but to learn about captive behaviour and breeding, so leaving them alone is a must!

Than to answer the question of Mister Jon Davidson.

As I stated above I build the site purely and alone to inform, share and gather information. I would like to have pictures of as many localities of King Cobras that I can find or get. In some cases a specific locality type picture is a free-handle picture, as I am not the legal owner of these pictures but allowed to use them in there original state I will publish them on the website. The value of this picture will be the specific Locality type of King Cobra that I can not get another picture of or picture that I’m allowed of to use.
I think this is a valid reason to show pictures of free-handling King Cobras its about the snake not about the person.

I hope I answered your questions in a satisfying way for you.?

With kind regards

Richard Mastenbroek owner of Ophiophagus.nl

to all others thanks for the comments and if anyone has pictures type localities of King Cobras that you allow me to use please send them to richardmastenbroek@gmail.com pictures will be placed with credits offcourse, also articles or behavioural notes are welcome

My first Kings

My first Kings, King Cobras from the past

For years I dreamed to keep King Cobras as “pet”snakes, I could remember the time I was still a little boy on the back seat of the car with a little book about wild animals, inside the book there was a drawing of a female king cobra with her nesting hope which she protected and this was the day I fell in love on this magnificent species.
Many years went by till on the fall Terraristika Hamm expo a German breeder named Horst Bungert offered some of his own captive bred King Cobra babies. The parent were that time fresh wild caught that were only for less than a year in captivity and al ready reproduced a healthy clutch of eggs off which most of them hatched.
I decided to buy one for 200 German marks these days and knew upfront the snake never fed before.
At home I placed it in a Aquarium of 50x30x30 cm with a lid made out of wood and aluminium mosquito wire. Which was the first crucial mistake I made as King Cobras need a good airflow and ventilation. As I was thinking Indonesia must be rainforest warm and humid, I installed a 25 watt light in the enclosure that raised temperatures up to 300C in daytime and humidity of 80-90%. This snake never fed and I force fed it twice a pinky mice, after 3 weeks it died. Just because I cared for it on the wrong way. Now I know Kings need to feed allot, have high ventilation, not hotter than 270C and a humidity level as low as 50% is no problem and they dwell well.

After this failure and disappointment it took some more years, before I met on a Reptile Expo in Neus Germany in 2002 a Swedish guy that had a bunch of Chinese Banded King Cobra babies for sale he asked 200 bucks a head and we agreed on me taking 5 of them, They were healthy curious little snakes and the guy gave me as bonus a bag with small feeder snakes like Dinodon and some kind of Chinese water snake I cant remember the species name.
At home I all placed them in small 60 x 30 x 30 cm enclosures. And the next day 4 out of 5 were feeding, which made me very happy. The one that didnt feed died the next day without any good reason probably stress. The others did wel for months but I never got them on cornsnakes what ever I tried it did not work, they also grew very slow, and shedding was a constant problem for a 4 babies left. 2 of them eventually died after keeping them for 6 months as I needed to forcefeed them which I did with pinky mice. 2 others died in a fire in my snakeroom at the end of 2002, the fire at self did not kill allot of animals but the toxic gasses that came free with the fire killed allot of snakes the days after.
On the Hamm expo in 2002 I also bought a new Indonesian King form the breeder I bought one from in 1998, als this snake died after a few weeks of forcefeeding but was allready a bit dehydrated from the long day at the expo and never was in great shape unfortunally.

It would take several more years before I could finally would welcome soem great and good looking kings in my collection