The King Cobra

The First International King Cobra Symposium 2017
6th  and  7th  of October 2017.

The King Cobra is truly a remarkable animal, the biggest venomous snake on earth. This majestic species is revered and feared throughout its range.
The natural habitat of these animals is feeling the pressure from human development, climate change and pollution , making life for the king more and more challenging. Many of them are also killed out of fear, leading to the decline of the species. Current statistics of how many there are left in the wild are unknown, but researchers are noticing a declining population trend for this regal snake.
The king is an important snake species for the overall balance in nature. Recent studies also concluded that the Kings’ venom is medically important and can be used as a powerful painkiller (among other things).
A lot of work needs to be done as well as research about its behaviour and venom to help protect it.
Protection of this species will also help protect their natural habitat and all other species that depend on it. The King is therefore a “flagship” species for conservation and habitat protection in its Asia.

The very first International King Cobra Symposium will feature the biggest experts, herpetologists, toxicologists and biologists from all over the world to talk about the important issues in King Cobra biology and conservation and aims to ignite cooperation of all parties as well as raise funds towards the preservation of the superior species of serpents.

Talks on King Cobra conservation, research in its natural behaviour as well as toxicology and youth participation in wildlife protection will be topics discusses in the symposium and participants are encouraged to play an active role in the symposium by joining the Question and Answer sessions.

Never before has such a prestigious line up come together to make an important step in furthering research and protection of one of the most iconic snakes in the world.
Visitors to the symposium will also witness a presentation about a scientific breakthrough in cobra research and venom evolutionary development apart from being able to walk through exhibitions from reptile and conservation related establishments.
This symposium will be a must for all that enjoy nature and wildlife.

We look forward to welcoming you at The First International King Cobra Symposium 2017!

A flagship species
for the conservation
of tropical rainforest

Speakers

Meet our most valued speakers

ROMULUS E. WHITAKER, INDIA

Madras Crocodile Bank / Centre for Herpetology

Madras Crocodile Bank / Centre for Herpetology

    JOE WASILEWSKI

    Crocodile specialist group

    Crocodile specialist group

      DR BRYAN GRIEG FRY, AUSTRALIA

      Venom Evolution Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences

      Venom Evolution Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences

      DR. COLIN STRINE, PHD, U.S.A./THAILAND

      Sakaerat Conservation and Snake Education Team

      Sakaerat Conservation and Snake Education Team

      MATT GOODE, PHD, U.S.A.

      School of Natural Resources and Environment

      School of Natural Resources and Environment

        PROFESSOR DR. INDRANEIL DAS, MALAYSIA

        Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation

        Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation

        GOWRI SHANKAR

        Gowri Shankar is a PHD candidate at North Orissa University

          DHIRAJ BHAISARE, INDIA

          Agumbe Rainforest Research Station

          Agumbe Rainforest Research Station

          Schedule

          The King Cobra is the world's longest venomous snake, reaching lengths of up to six meters. King Cobras have a massive range, extending from southwestern India to the Philippines, and southern China to the Indonesian Archipelago. Importantly, King Cobras often function as apex predators in the forested ecosystems in which they occur, playing a critical role in ecosystem processes. Their role in top-down structuring of tropical communities, highlights the importance of protecting these magnificent snakes. Furthermore, the King Cobra likely acts as an umbrella species, because they maintain large home ranges, which, if protected, would provide large tracts of habitat that accommodate a host of other species. Indeed, conservation of King Cobras, and the habitats on which they depend, may be an effective method for creating biodiversity reservoirs and sustaining natural environments. And finally, King Cobras are a highly charismatic species, and given the species’ notoriety and importance, both ecologically and culturally, we attempt to make the case for King Cobras as an excellent flagship species for conservation

          Matt Goode, USA

          An increase in the human population to over 9.6 billion people by 2050 especially in developing regions will directly affect the survival of wildlife. Species that have been the subject of phylogeographic studies worldwide are surprisingly low, particularly in the most biologically diverse areas, in the Old WORLD’S tropical regions. The king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), the longest venomous snake in the world, has a discontinuous distribution, and is threatened by habitat fragmentation. This scenario necessitates a study on its phylogeography. Dispersal abilities of terrestrial snakes, especially threatened venomous species such as the king cobra, could be hindered due to the increasing impact of various anthropologically induced activities. In this study, we will examine range-wide phylogeography and contemporary population genetic structure of the king cobra within India and reconstruct the biogeographic history of O. hannah in Southeast Asia. We will use morphometric measurements, genetics and natural history data to investigate historic and current genetic divergence, identify potential subpopulations and delineate Evolutionarily Significant Units (ESUs) and/or Management Units (MUs) for the long-term conservation of king cobras.

          Gowri Shankar, India

          King cobras in Thailand are woefully persecuted. They are killed by government officials even though they are protected by Thai law. Often seen as the most dangerous Thai snake, there is a major disconnect between the reality of king cobra behaviors and the perceived threat to humans. Every single school group the Sakaerat Conservation and Snake Education Team has surveyed listed the king cobra as the most dangerous and likely to bite humans of all snakes in Thailand. This fear, and recognition can be shifted to respect. By showing real behaviors near humans, and by displaying the story of these fascinating animals we can make a difference. The key has been long term exposure to conservation team members focused exclusively on developing the relationship between humans and these fascinating animals. Sakaerat Conservation and Snake Education Team firmly believes that humans and king cobras can coexist without persecution, and thus our fundamental value is education.

          Dr Colin Strine, Thailand

          Prof. Dr Indraneil Das, Malaysia

          The youth hold the keys to the future and with this ideal in mind the Herpetofauna Foundation is working hard to develop various educational programs for school children. In 2016 the foundation developed an educational program for children from the ages 4 to 12 and it was clear how enthusiastic the children are to work and learn through these programs. The Herpetofauna foundation aims to develop more of these programs according to specific themes so they can be intertwined with the school’s curriculum. In this way the children get more actively involved in conservation. Passion for nature in children will lead to more involved citizens that won’t take nature and its creatures for granted.

          Rogier van Rossem, The Netherlands

          Fungi are omnipresent throughout almost all ecosystems. They have a crucial role in converting dead biomass into useful nutrients for other organisms. At the same time, however, certain species of pathogenic fungi threaten crops, cattle, wildlife, and human health. Therefore, combatting these pathogenic fungi is socially and economically important. The acquired resistance of fungi against commonly used fungicides is of increasing concern, and is caused by the widespread use of antifungals in the environment. Additionally, due to human toxicity and environmental concerns, the use of common fungicides is becoming increasingly restricted. It is therefore critical to develop durable and environmentally friendly fungicides. These next generation fungicides have the potential to maintain biodiversity, assist with the efficient production of food crops, and combat fungal infections in humans and animals.

          Sefanne Hakken, The Netherlands

          King cobras are prolific snake eaters, consuming both venomous and non-venomous species. Through the radio-telemetric study on King cobras we documented two non-translocated wild adult males feeding on Malabar pit vipers (Trimeresurus malabaricus) and Hump-nosed pit vipers (Hypnale hypnale), for the first time. Other prey included Indian rat snakes (Ptyas mucosa) and Spectacled cobras (Naja naja). We also documented scavenging in King cobras for the first time. Prey-specific predation tactics were also observed. We recorded voluntary submergence of King cobras in water-bodies while foraging or hunting and their apnoea capacities. We studied behavioural responses towards weather conditions and season based temporal variations in movement and activity budget. We also documented high site fidelity in both the individuals. Interestingly, even though the home-ranges of King cobras highly overlap, there was no interaction between individuals observed during non-breeding season.

          Dhiraj Bhaisare, India

          Since March 2015, we have radio tracked Five King Cobras. Preliminary data reveal that King Cobras moved 14.2 km over a 100 day period. Snakes were the main prey of King Cobras, including Sumatran Spitting Cobras. King Cobras used palm oil most of the time, but also periodically used adjacent riverine riparian forests. Our preliminary data on habitat use indicates the importance of maintaining relatively intact native habitat within and adjacent to palm oil plantations. In the future, our goal is to use what we learn from intensive radio telemetry on these snakes to guide us in determining the size and configuration of protected areas needed to sustain reptile diversity in areas where the demand for agricultural lands is high.

          Mohd Silmi, Indonesia

          King cobras are found in many parts of India where optimum conditions occur. They occur in a wide variety of habitats including rainforest, deciduous forest, grasslands and mangrove swamps. They have been seen at over 2000 metres elevation in the lower Himalayas and are also found in the Andaman Islands. While king cobras are revered in some parts of India they are frequently killed on sight because of the fear they generate and have become rare both because of killing and loss of habitat. King cobra conservation and research was first started in Agumbe, Karnataka in 2005 by the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station.

          Romulus Whitaker, India

          The cytotoxicity of venom from 25 species of Old World elapid snakes were tested and compared with the morphological and behavioural adaptations of hooding and spitting. Here we show that contrary to perceived wisdom, the venoms of spitting species were not consistently found to be more cytotoxic than those of closely related non-spitting species. While this was the case for African cobras relative to African spitting cobras, it was not the case for Asian cobras relative to Asian spitting cobras. However, a consistent correlation was detected between cytotoxicity and utilisation of the defensive hooding display that cobras are famous for – species that hood possess more cytotoxic venom. Hooding and spitting are uncontroversially regarded as defensive adaptations, but it has hitherto been uncertain whether cytotoxicity serves a defensive purpose or is somehow useful in prey subjugation. The results of this study suggest that cytotoxicity evolved primarily as a defensive innovation and that it has co-evolved alongside hooding behaviour indepently the cobras versus king cobras. The results also suggest that spitting evolved (3 times independently) secondary to the evolution of venom rich in cytotoxins, i.e. secondary to the evolution of venom worth spitting. The results of this study make an important contribution to our growing understanding of the selection pressures shaping the evolution of snake venom and its constituent toxins. They are also of significance in elucidating the relationship between these selection pressures and the medical impact of human snakebite, particularly in the developing world, as cytotoxic cobras cause considerable morbidity, including loss-of-function injuries that result in economic and social burdens, in Tropical Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

          Dr Brian G Fry
          13.45 - 14.15pm
          Ecology study and conservation efforts of wild King cobras (Ophiophagus Hannah) in Central Western Ghats of India

          “Snake rescue” is becoming a common term, and refers to individuals or teams who rescue people from snakes- and vice versa!- in homes, gardens, offices and other places where they turn up, unexpected and unwelcome. These are mostly small, non-venomous snakes like rat snakes, wolf snakes and trinket snake. But the call to solve such a conflict situation at ARRS have a slightly more challenging job, one which has been recognized and praised by scientists, conservationists, journalists and in fact all who have been lucky enough to visit ARRS. ARRS spells Agumbe Rainforest Research Station and was set up by India’s renowned Herpetologist Mr. Romulus Whitaker for the conservation of this biodiversity hotspot in the Western Ghats of India. The king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), endangered throughout its world range, has managed to survive in this ecosystem in spite of shrinking forest and expanding development. A major reason for its survival is the enlightened attitude of the community. They do not harm or kill king cobras, recognizing them as gentle giants which are also vital links in the natural chain. Tolerance and “live and let live” is one thing, but no-one really wants a king cobra hanging about in their kitchen! Being the largest venomous snakes in the world and endowed with highly potent neurotoxic venom, till yet there is no ASV for bite of king cobra in Western Ghats of India. After the king cobra Telemetery Project in ARRS, we learnt a lot about wild king cobra ecology and breeding biology.

          Ajay Giri, India

          Reptile-keepers, as pets or for professional breeding purposes, are encountering more and more ‘hypes’ of infectious diseases. These diseases, e.g. CANV, IBD, cryptosporidiosis etc, can cause great panic. In this lecture , we will discuss the origin and causes of these diseases, the diagnosis and treatment and how we can prevent these ‘hypes’ in the future.

          Dr Marc Maas, The Netherlands

          Raymond Creemers, The Netherlands

          Dr. Groenestein will lead you through an interesting puzzle, about the nature of diagnostics. During a demonstration he will particularly focus on a special diagnostic discipline : endoscopy

          Dr Paul Groenestein, The Netherlands

          Exotic veterinarians are different from other vets. They have additional training to learn far more about reptile and amphibian medicine than is covered in the usual education. During their study in veterinary medical school, veterinarians learn a lot about cats, dogs, rabbits, cows, horses, birds, and pigs and a few other species. To learn more about these reptiles medicine in the Netherlands, one needs the possibility to obtain hands-on experience in a Zoo with a lot of reptiles, a laboratory or at the university. Most problems with reptiles kept by private people are related to management, like housing, feeding and calcium – UV-deficiency. Education and preventive medicine are an important part of reptile medicine. During the presentation, Dr Peter Klaver will explain some aspects of treatment of reptile patients in his clinic, like a tumor in a snake, egg binding in tortoises, and skin problems.

          Dr Peter Klaver, The Netherlands

          King cobras (Ophiophagus hannah) are a vulnerable species yet surprisingly little is known about their natural history. We radio-tracked 14 king cobras (n= 11 males, n = 3 females) in the Sakaerat Biosphere Reserve (SBR) between 2015-2017. We located individuals 1-4 times daily, and recorded habitat, shelter, and climate data on each location. Using minimum convex polygons (MCP) and fixed kernels we identified king cobra home range sizes. The mean 99% MCP size for male king cobras in the SBR was 954.8 ha. The mean kernel activity center was 115.03 ha, and the mean kernel activity area was 892.8 ha. The animals used a variety of habitats, and their home ranges overlapped significantly with the transitional and buffer zones of the SBR. Conflicts arise with humans occasionally, which often result in snake mortality. Further assessment of habitat use within home ranges is necessary for future management plans.

          Cameron Hodges, USA

          As someone who has been focussed on snakes from a very early age, I always dreamed of seeing a king cobra in the wild. My first ‘hands-on’ experience with king cobras was assisting the legendary William Haast at the Miami Serpentarium. Later, when I set up India’s first snake park I spent many months searching the forests of the Western Ghats in south India. I finally found my first two wild king cobras in Agumbe where I later set up the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station with a focus on king cobra conservation and research. I also used the medium of film to publicize the beauty and plight of these magnificent snakes with two films for National Geographic and one for BBC Natural World.

          Romulus Whitaker, India

          Dr Fry shares his experiences from over the years such as stories about his discoveries, which include antifreeze venom in Antarctic octopuses, Komodo dragon venom and new species of sea snakes and also experiences from being bitten by 27 snakes, broken 24 bones (including his back on 2 seperate occasions), 3 stingray stings, 1 near fatal scorpion sting in the Amazon and receiving. over 400 stitches. Fry’s publications have appeared in prestigious scientific journals, including Nature. He has led field expeditions to over forty countries and he is a member of the Explorers Club. His work has,been funded by grants from a diversity of funding agencies, including the Australian Research Council and the Australian Antarctic Division.

          Dr Brian G Fry, Australia

          Prof. Dr Indaneil Das, Malaysia

          In Sakaerat Biosphere Reserve nestled just above Wang Nam Khieo in Northeastern Thailand king cobras are incredibly secretive. Our four year monitoring program has yielded some insights into threats to king cobras within the region. It appears that the majority of threats are anthropogenic in nature. One particular king cobra (the largest tracked to date in Thailand at 4.4 m total length) ingested a plastic bag and subsequently died. Another adult male showed us remarkable insight into its mating preferences as he returned to the same female exclusively two years in a row. We will never know if he would have returned a third year because he was hit by a car on the highway prior to his third radio tracked breeding season. These animals hold many secrets, but humans are negatively impacting king cobra populations, particularly in Thailand. Ultimately we must identify the key threats and design grass roots implemented mitigation measures if we intend to truly conserve these animals in the rapidly changing habitat surrounding protected areas.

          Dr Colin Strine, Thailand

          Dr. Groenestein will lead you through an interesting puzzle, about the nature of diagnostics. During a demonstration he will particularly focus on a special diagnostic discipline : endoscopy

          Dr Paul Groenestein, The Netherlands

          “Snake rescue” is becoming a common term, and refers to individuals or teams who rescue people from snakes- and vice versa!- in homes, gardens, offices and other places where they turn up, unexpected and unwelcome. These are mostly small, non-venomous snakes like rat snakes, wolf snakes and trinket snake. But the call to solve such a conflict situation at ARRS have a slightly more challenging job, one which has been recognized and praised by scientists, conservationists, journalists and in fact all who have been lucky enough to visit ARRS. ARRS spells Agumbe Rainforest Research Station and was set up by India’s renowned Herpetologist Mr. Romulus Whitaker for the conservation of this biodiversity hotspot in the Western Ghats of India. The king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), endangered throughout its world range, has managed to survive in this ecosystem in spite of shrinking forest and expanding development. A major reason for its survival is the enlightened attitude of the community. They do not harm or kill king cobras, recognizing them as gentle giants which are also vital links in the natural chain. Tolerance and “live and let live” is one thing, but no-one really wants a king cobra hanging about in their kitchen! Being the largest venomous snakes in the world and endowed with highly potent neurotoxic venom, till yet there is no ASV for bite of king cobra in Western Ghats of India. After the king cobra Telemetery Project in ARRS, we learnt a lot about wild king cobra ecology and breeding biology.

          Ajay Giri, India

          The King Cobra Conservancy is a non-profit organization founded by a group of dedicated conservationists, herpetologists, and artists, all of whom share a unique connection to Ophiophagus hannah. The KCC is dedicated to supporting ecological research and conservation initiatives aimed at determining the status of King Cobras in the wild, and identifying threats and solutions for future survival. We strive to develop a better understanding of the King Cobra’s role within the tropical Asian landscape, as well as their importance in human culture and their impact on the lives of people.

          Joe Wasilewski

          We observed male combat, courtship/ mating and cannibalism in wild king cobras. Behavioural elements such as approach, rearing, vigilance, displacement, tongue flicking, retreat, resting and yawning were common to male combat (agonistic context) and courtship / mating (reproductive context). While approach, rearing, vigilance, displacement were more frequent in male combat, head butting, tongue flicking and head jerking were common during courtship. We also report possible polyandry in this species for the first time.

          Gowri Shankar, India
          13.45 - 14.15pm
          King Cobra Spatial Ecology and Conservation

          King cobras (Ophiophagus hannah) are a vulnerable species yet surprisingly little is known about their natural history. We radio-tracked 14 king cobras (n= 11 males, n = 3 females) in the Sakaerat Biosphere Reserve (SBR) between 2015-2017. We located individuals 1-4 times daily, and recorded habitat, shelter, and climate data on each location. Using minimum convex polygons (MCP) and fixed kernels we identified king cobra home range sizes. The mean 99% MCP size for male king cobras in the SBR was 954.8 ha. The mean kernel activity center was 115.03 ha, and the mean kernel activity area was 892.8 ha. The animals used a variety of habitats, and their home ranges overlapped significantly with the transitional and buffer zones of the SBR. Conflicts arise with humans occasionally, which often result in snake mortality. Further assessment of habitat use within home ranges is necessary for future management plans.

          Cameron Hodges, USA

          Exotic veterinarians are different from other vets. They have additional training to learn far more about reptile and amphibian medicine than is covered in the usual education. During their study in veterinary medical school, veterinarians learn a lot about cats, dogs, rabbits, cows, horses, birds, and pigs and a few other species. To learn more about these reptiles medicine in the Netherlands, one needs the possibility to obtain hands-on experience in a Zoo with a lot of reptiles, a laboratory or at the university. Most problems with reptiles kept by private people are related to management, like housing, feeding and calcium – UV-deficiency. Education and preventive medicine are an important part of reptile medicine. During the presentation, Dr Peter Klaver will explain some aspects of treatment of reptile patients in his clinic, like a tumor in a snake, egg binding in tortoises, and skin problems.

          Dr Peter Klaver, The Netherlands

          Raymond Creemers, The Netherlands

          Fungi are omnipresent throughout almost all ecosystems. They have a crucial role in converting dead biomass into useful nutrients for other organisms. At the same time, however, certain species of pathogenic fungi threaten crops, cattle, wildlife, and human health. Therefore, combatting these pathogenic fungi is socially and economically important. The acquired resistance of fungi against commonly used fungicides is of increasing concern, and is caused by the widespread use of antifungals in the environment. Additionally, due to human toxicity and environmental concerns, the use of common fungicides is becoming increasingly restricted. It is therefore critical to develop durable and environmentally friendly fungicides. These next generation fungicides have the potential to maintain biodiversity, assist with the efficient production of food crops, and combat fungal infections in humans and animals.

          Sefanne Hakken, The Netherlands
          13.45 - 14.15pm
          Foraging ecology and movement of King cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) in Western Ghats, India

          King cobras are prolific snake eaters, consuming both venomous and non-venomous species. Through the radio-telemetric study on King cobras we documented two non-translocated wild adult males feeding on Malabar pit vipers (Trimeresurus malabaricus) and Hump-nosed pit vipers (Hypnale hypnale), for the first time. Other prey included Indian rat snakes (Ptyas mucosa) and Spectacled cobras (Naja naja). We also documented scavenging in King cobras for the first time. Prey-specific predation tactics were also observed. We recorded voluntary submergence of King cobras in water-bodies while foraging or hunting and their apnoea capacities. We studied behavioural responses towards weather conditions and season based temporal variations in movement and activity budget. We also documented high site fidelity in both the individuals. Interestingly, even though the home-ranges of King cobras highly overlap, there was no interaction between individuals observed during non-breeding season.

          Dhiraj Bhaisare, India

          Since March 2015, we have radio tracked Five King Cobras. Preliminary data reveal that King Cobras moved 14.2 km over a 100 day period. Snakes were the main prey of King Cobras, including Sumatran Spitting Cobras. King Cobras used palm oil most of the time, but also periodically used adjacent riverine riparian forests. Our preliminary data on habitat use indicates the importance of maintaining relatively intact native habitat within and adjacent to palm oil plantations. In the future, our goal is to use what we learn from intensive radio telemetry on these snakes to guide us in determining the size and configuration of protected areas needed to sustain reptile diversity in areas where the demand for agricultural lands is high.

          Mohd Silmi, Indonesia

          Dozens of volunteers from all around the world come to Northeast Thailand with one common goal: to become a King Cobra tracker for the Sakaerat Conservation and Snake Education Team. King Cobra trackers must be prepared to work long days in the field during very hot and humid conditions. Besides radiotracking King Cobras outreach in the surrounding villages is one of the main activities. Educating the local Thai people already saved many snakes including several King Cobras which joined the telemetry study after. All the hard work in the field is for a good cause. It is essential for long-term King Cobra conservation. How volunteers make a difference in King Cobra conservation is a lecture about the stories behind the data.

          Jory van Thiel, The Netherlands

          Reptile-keepers, as pets or for professional breeding purposes, are encountering more and more ‘hypes’ of infectious diseases. These diseases, e.g. CANV, IBD, cryptosporidiosis etc, can cause great panic. In this lecture , we will discuss the origin and causes of these diseases, the diagnosis and treatment and how we can prevent these ‘hypes’ in the future.

          Dr Marc Maas, The Netherlands

          Event tickets

          Early Bird rates (before 1st July 2017)

          6th October – Friday
          99
          • Unlimited coffee/tea/soft drinks
          • Snacks during the breaks
          • Lunch
          Buy now
          Hot!
          6th – 7th October. – Both days
          150
          • Unlimited coffee/tea/soft drinks
          • Snacks during the breaks
          • Lunch
          • 2 full days
          Buy now
          7th October – Saturday
          99
          • Unlimited coffee/tea/soft drinks
          • Snacks during the breaks
          • Lunch
          Buy now

          Students are welcome too!
          Students will receive a 25% discount*
          * please send in an e-mail to info@kingcobrasymposium.com enclosed with a copy of your student ID in order to receive voucher code for your student discount.

          Register for the King Cobra Symposium now

          Our Sponsors

          these companies support us

          Conference venue

          • Hotel Veenendaal - Van der Valk
            Bastion 73, 3905 NJ
            Veenendaal, The Netherlands
          • sales@veenendaal.valk.com
          • +31 (0)318 79 90 60
          • Book Hotel