Because of the rapid human encroachment upon previously undeveloped land, each year more than a dozen majestic King Cobras are wantonly killed by villagers on the subcontinent of India and on the island of Sri Lanka. Many experts will tell you that one or more cobras in any given ecosystem poses serious potential health problems for cohabitants including, but not limited to, humans. Especially baby humans. (see video link for example) http://youtube.com/watch?v=MJe2to3JZxE
But lets look at some of the facts as they pertain to human-cobra interaction. First, are cobras the deadliest snakes in the world? No. That title belongs to the Inland Taipan of Australia. What about the second deadliest? No. Once again we must go down under for the Australian Brown Snake. Third? Nope. Try the Beaked Sea Snake. Fourth? Black Mamba. Sorry.
So where do Cobras rank among the deadliest snakes in the world? Ninth. That’s right. There’s a whole Bradford family of serpents deadlier than the King Cobra. This, of course, raises the question, “What’s the big deal?”
Two words. The Hood. Most people who come face to face with a cobra get freaked out by the hood. This is understandable. It’s a scary flap of skin. No argument here.
People also get spooked by the fangs and the venom. This, too, is understandable as these particular features are mostly what make cobras “deadly” in the first place.
We can agree, then, the scary-looking hood and the poisonousness of cobras are the main beef that people have with these animals. But is this fair? If cobras had soft white fur and whiskers in addition to the hood and fangs, would they somehow be more palatable? Unfortunately, God and evolution will forever let that question go unanswered.
Now let’s look at the the other factor in the annual cobra slaughter in India. The human population on the subcontinent now sits at a gaudy 1.1 billion. King Cobras, on the other hand number ten, maybe fifteen thousand total. While a single cobra bite can kill up to twenty people, it would take 55 million cobra bites to wipe out the entire human population of Indian. And that’s assuming they could fit twenty different ankles into one bite. Which they can’t. So…
By contrast, a suburban Mumbai home-owner could easily wipe out five or six cobras with a single lawnmower (given that he gets them in a clusterfuck of sorts). In other words, it would take a mere 3,000 lawnmowers to obliterate the entire cobra population of India. A feat that could easily be done in a single hazy afternoon.
What we have then, is an in-pass. A human population that is stretching the confines of the subcontinent versus a species that, for centuries, slithered the Indian countryside unencumbered. The result, is the tragic killing of more than a dozen snakes a year. To put that into perspective, nearly 80 snakes have been killed since George W. Bush took office in 2001. Almost 200 have perished since Bush’s father was President. If laid end to end, the corpses of all cobras killed during the last twenty years would stretch 2,880 feet. To give you a better idea, this macabre line would stretch from Van Nuys almost all the way to Sherman Oaks.
What then is the solution? A sanctuary.
We propose a Los Angeles County Wild Cobra Refuge (LACWCR) to be built in Topanga Canyon near the intersection of Highway 27 and Topanga School Road. The facility would be an open-air trench in the shape of an “S” (for snake) carved into the side of a hill. The facility would measure over 600 square feet in area. A four-foot retaining wall would surround the trench to prevent viewers from falling in. A dozen 18-inch steps will be placed around the perimeter so that toddlers and midgets may also enjoy viewing the snakes. As an extra safety precaution, a ten-foot wide moat will surround the sanctuary. The moat will be filled with mongoose, a natural guard dog to cobras.
Once the refuge is built, we hope to airlift approximately 3,000 King Cobras directly from the wilds of India and Sri Lanka into Topanga Canyon. A team of 14 highly dedicated snake catchers will comb the subcontinent to hopefully collect at least 1,000 snakes in the first six months.
Breeding and research.
A primary purpose for LACWCR, in addition to saving cobras from wanton slaughter, is to breed as many King Cobras as possible and farm them out to other sanctuaries which we hope to build throughout North America. Key to this breeding program will be the engineering of a cold-weather cobra. Most cobras prefer balmy jungle climates, however, we see a bonanza of sanctuary opportunities in the human-depleted Great Plains of the US and Canada. If King Cobras can be bred to enjoy snow, and maybe even permafrost, then the grasslands of Montana, the Dakotas, Saskatchewan and Manitoba offer boundless opportunities for King Cobras to survive unconfined as they do in India.
Another purpose for LACWCR is to study the possible use of cobra milk as a future biofuel. The main obstacle to this goal is that cobras do not lactate as they are not mammals and they lack nipples. However, using hormone injections, we believe milk glands in female cobras may secrete a kind of cellulose through their belly scales. This aspect of the refuge is highly theoretical and research grants are still pending.
Why Topanga Canyon?
Topanga Canyon is a lush, thickly forested gash through the Santa Monica Mountains. Its proximity to the Pacific Ocean helps the canyon maintain a temperate climate year round. The necessity of airlifting the snakes directly from India and Sri Lanka in burlap sacks, writhing together in balls of 100 or so serpents, for 17 hours in a hot cargo hold, will likely cause ill-temper in many of the snakes. A stable environment will help calm the cobras as quickly as possible.
Topanga Canyon is also a bohemian enclave. We feel that an open-minded community of artists, musicians and marijuana farmers will treat our venomous newcomers with the respect and dignity deserving of all immigrants to this country.
Additionally we hope that the canyon’s picturesque cliffs and winding roads will comfort the snakes for the duration of their stay.
While we petition the Los Angeles County Development Board to consider our proposal and to help save these precious animals from gruesome ends in their homeland, LACWCR is simultaneously looking at alternative locations to begin this venture. They include Central Park in Manhattan. Along the Appalachian Trail near Gatlinburg,Tennessee. And downtown Omaha, Nebraska at the foot of the newly constructed Missouri River pedestrian bridge.
Hopefully, one of these locations will soon offer both respite and hope for the future for these majestic snakes.
To learn more about the wanton slaughter of King Cobras in India and Sri Lanka, please contact your local congressman or stop by the nearest Indian Consulate.
You can make a difference in the life of a baby cobra.