The officials of Bhopal's Van Vihar National Park’s snake park are facing a strange challenge to ensure regular supply of small rat snakes to feed a 17-year-old king cobra.
Officials said that following the snake’s old age, the main attraction of the snake park is unable to wrestle with big rat snakes which it used to relish earlier.
Director of the national park, BPS Parihar, said that the cobra has became very weak and keeps falling ill after it lost its second fang over a month and half ago.
"When we had recovered it from a snake charmer five years ago, it had lost it first fang. But somehow it managed to eat rat snakes. When it lost its second fang, it could no longer eat large rat snakes. Devoid of food it has become weak and is dying," he said adding that Bhopal’s famous snake catcher Mohammad Saleem supplies small rat snakes to them.
Veterinary doctor at the park, Atul Gupta, who treated the snake and administered glucose to it, said, “A king cobras normally live up to 20 to 22 years. When cobras hunt, they normally bite and swallow their wriggling prey and its toxins help digestion. So we started feeding it small rat snakes as it doesn’t have to struggle much,” he said.
Saleem said that earlier even with one fang the cobra used to eat rat snakes up to seven feet long.
“But these days it can eat only small rat snakes twice a month. After it lost its second fang, its jaws used to bleed because of the struggle it had to go through for swallowing large snakes,” he said.
Saleem said that on an average he catches 15 to 20 snakes daily to feed the cobra.