Indian King Cobras

I have decided to help scientist Gowri Shankar and his team at Kālinga Foundation for their incredible work on king cobras and conservation of their habitat. 


I visited Gowri in India this year, and was inspired by their work with king cobras. They put a lot of effort in science, education, and rescuing and relocating king cobras. I have found their work very relevant, genuine, and sincere. By helping them raise funds we will support direct conservation of this keystone species of the region.


Organization: Kālinga Foundation, Agumbe, Karnataka, India.



To establish a resolute eco-force of common people with extraordinary commitment for environmental conservation.



To integrate research and education for people to make informed conscious moves in sustaining and conserving our environment.



“Conservation through Research and Environmental Education“


Ø  Collaboration with Scientific Community

Ø  Network of eco-focused establishments : Businesses, Research Stations, Schools,

Colleges, Resorts, NGOs, Individuals

Ø  Local community partnerships

Ø  Internship opportunities for students


King cobra: The king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) is the longest venomous snakes in the world, has a discontinuous distribution, and is threatened by habitat fragmentation and persecution by humans. They are the only snakes known to build nests. They only feed on other snakes and occasionally monitor lizards. Being an apex predator they are good indicators of the herpetofaunal diversity of the region. Habitat destruction and illegal wildlife trade are two key factors threatening the survival of this species. King cobras are exploited for their skin; live specimens are exported for zoos and as pets.


The king cobra has been assessed as

·      ‘Vulnerable’ under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species,

·      Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

·      In India it is placed under Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.



Project name:  Rescue and Relocation of King cobras

Agumbe is prime habitat for king cobras. With the ever increasing human animal conflict, more and more king cobras are crossing paths with humans. While the inherent reverence for this snake in this region has been a boon, it nevertheless requires to be rescued and relocated to safer spots. Kalinga Foundation engages in this throughout the year.  Irrespective of the distance or time our team is always geared up to head out for a king cobra rescue.  Rescues are done in the most ethical and professional manner using right equipment. Soon after the rescue is completed we use the opportunity to educate people (gathered around to watch the rescue) about king cobras and the need to conserve their habitat. This initiative has garnered good support from locals as they now have a go to team for anything related to king cobras.

Project name: King Cobra Breeding Biology

February to May is the breeding season for king cobras. It is during this time that we encounter the maximum number of king cobras as these snakes are actively seeking mates and hence increased activity. For close to a decade we have been observing the breeding cycle of king cobras which entails male combat, courtship, mating and nesting. These are all monitored without the use of any tracking devices hence our team follows such pairs on foot and station where the action unfolds. This ensures round the clock observation and has helped discover several unknown facets of a king cobra’s life. The most remarkable observations being, male combats by more than four males for a female, gravid female king cobras being swallowed live and regurgitated by males, amazing nest construction by king cobras and hatching from the nests.


Project name: Phylogeography of King Cobras across Indian Sub-Continent

Several herpetologists and taxonomists report an apparent disagreement in many aspects of variation within this species, namely the conventional subspecies classification, morphology, nesting behavior, clinical symptoms of envenomation, and antivenom efficacy.

In India, they are present in the Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats, the Northeast and lower Himalayan region. We will study the distribution patterns of king cobras and attempt to understand their contemporary genetic structure in the Indian Subcontinent. So far, king cobras in different locations have shown specific differences in their colour and band patterns, behaviour, and the breeding schedule. We are looking at integrating morphology, life history traits, and genetics for a better insight of this enigmatic animal.

Our results on ESUs, MUs, population isolation, gene flow, and effective population size are essential for the conservation and the management of king cobras throughout their range.


      We conduct environmental education programs throughout the year. This involves addressing varied audience from school children, college students, forest officials, village committees and self help groups about environment conservation. We also conduct specialized workshops on snakes and king cobras every year to increase awareness.


Support our projects:

You can support the project by making a donation. We  need funds for:


1. Data collection during field work


2. Providing rescue and sample extraction kits to the local king cobra rescuers


3. Environmental education


4. Laboratory work (molecular genetic data sequencing)


Who heads it: P. GowriShankar

PhD student, North Orissa University, India

PhD Exchange Student, Uppsala University, Sweden(ERASMUS-MUNUDS EMINTE PROGRAM:2014-2016)

Founder Director, Kālinga Foundation and Kālinga Centre for Rainforest Ecology

Who is Gowri Shankar ?


Gowri Shankar is a wildlife biologist studying the natural history of king cobras for over a decade in the Western Ghats, India. He has rescued and relocated over 250 king cobras from distress situations, monitored over 30 king cobra nests and released nearly 500 hatchlings back to wild. He was instrumental in initiating the pioneering radio telemetry study on king cobras to discover the secret life of king cobras.  He has been featured in several wildlife documentaries like the ‘King Cobra and I’, ‘Secrets of the King Cobra ‘, 'One million snake bites' , 'Asia's deadliest snakes' and "Wildest India' by channels like the BBC, Discovery, NatGeoWild and the National Geographic Channel and also served as consultant to these channels.


He believes education is the cornerstone of conservation. He initiated ‘Scientific Training on Reptile Management (STORM)’, a workshop that introduces people to the life of reptiles and deals with ethical and scientific methods of rescue and relocation. At Kālinga Foundation, Agumbe, he has opened up avenues for students pursuing under graduation and post graduation to pursue internship and take up research projects. He also organizes environmental education camps and workshops for people interested in wildlife and conservation irrespective of their backgrounds to learn about forests and wilderness in the most responsible way. 


What motivates Gowri:  Gowri Shankar started handling snakes at the age of 13 and now uses this skill to explore the undiscovered grounds of the reptilian world. The sheer size, potency, secretive lives and intelligence of king cobras fascinates him most and is the force behind his passion for understanding them better.


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