Clash of the Titans – Snakes at NTU!

Hey everyone! If you have not heard, last Thursday a king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) was found fighting a reticulated python(Broghammerus reticulatus) in Nanyang Technological University (NTU) (see the photo below by Abhishek Ambede!). The fight ended when the king cobra escaped into the bushes and NTU’s pest control unit captured the python. The python was released into the forest and the king cobra was caught later before it was sent to the zoo.

cobra vs python image
Photo by Abhishek Ambede

These two species of snakes are huge, with the king cobra being the world’s longest venomous snake1,2 (longest recorded length of 5.85m)2, and the reticulated python is the world’s longest snake (longest recorded length of more than 10m)3, making this truly a clash of titans. Find out more about the two snakes and what should you do when you encounter a snake below!

King cobra

king cobra_ecology asia
Photo by Nick Baker (EcologyAsia.com)

Like other cobras, king cobras are highly venomous1, and possibly due to their size, they have large venom glands that produce so much venom that even elephants have been known to die from king cobra bites2! The king cobra utilizes this venom to prey on other snakes and, occasionally, monitor lizards1. As for its distribution, the king cobra is found widely throughout both South and Southeast Asia and within Singapore the king cobra has been found in both our forested areas and urban areas2. Another unique feature of king cobras is that unlike other snakes, king cobras will use dead leaves to make a nest for their eggs and the female will guard the nest until they hatch1.

Reticulated python

python_ecology asia
Photo by Nick Baker (EcologyAsia.com)

Unlike the king cobra, the reticulated python is non-venomous but instead uses its large muscular body to constrict its prey, usually mammals, to death3. Similar to other pythons, the reticulated python possesses heat-sensing pits on its upper lips that helps it to find its warm-blooded prey1. The reticulated python is found throughout Southeast Asia and it is highly adaptable resulting it being found in a variety of habitats in Singapore like forests, mangroves and built up urban areas1. The reticulated python however is not seen regularly due to its nocturnal lifestyle1.

What should I do if I see a snake?

Snakes generally want nothing to do with humans so you might find that snakes would rather run from you than to attack you. As such, if you do see a snake, just maintain a respectful distance and give the snake room to escape. DO NOT approach the snake or attempt to capture it. If you feel the snake needs to be relocated or it is injured do call the Animal Concerns Research& Education Society’s (ACRES) animal rescue hotline at +65 9783 7782.

We would also suggest downloading the “Snakes of Singapore” app by Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), which is available for iOS and Andrioid, onto your phone so that you can identify any snakes you may see. If you would like to find out more about snakes, check out the Herpetological Society of Singapore’s (HSS) blog here: https://herpsocsg.wordpress.com/!

References

  1. Ng, P. K. L., Corlett, R., & Tan T. W. H. (2011). Singapore biodiversity: An encyclopaedia of the natural environment and sustainable development. Singapore: Didier Millet in association with Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research
  2. Lim, K.K.P., Leong, T.M., & Lim, F.L.K. (2011). The king cobra, Ophiophagus hannah (Cantor) in Singapore (Reptilia: Squamata: Elapidae). Nature in Singapore 2011, 4, 143-156.
  3. Baker, N. (n.d.) EcologyAsia: Reticulated Python. Retrieved from: http://www.ecologyasia.com/verts/snakes/reticulated_python.htm

Words by Lee Juin Bin

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