It is always fun to watch animals in the field as they feed, mate, or fight. However, it is typically more difficult to see a snake performing these actions because they are typically frightened of people and will slither away if given the opportunity. A few HSS members recently witnessed not only a predation occurrence involving two snakes but also aggressive behavior between two huge reptiles!
In the early afternoon, a member of the NParks staff came across a king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) and a reticulated python (Malayopython reticulatus) squabbling in the mangroves of the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.
With a maximum length of 5.7 meters, king cobras are the world’s largest species of venomous snake. They mostly hunt on snakes, though rarely they also catch monitor lizards. On the other hand, reticulated pythons are the world’s longest species of snake, reaching astounding lengths of 10 meters! This really was a struggle between titans (although these were smaller individuals). The python was just 1.5 meters long, but the king cobra was reported to be roughly 2.5 meters long.
Around 5 o’clock, as we were getting ready to depart, we noticed a huge Malayan water monitor (Varanus salvator) approaching the python’s carcass. We watched in a hopeful yet dismayed manner. Maybe the king cobra feeding on the python wouldn’t happen after all. Even if the monitor lizard had eaten the python, it would have been a fascinating observation. It was not to be, though. We quickly spotted a flash of gold in the distance as the king cobra was returning to collect its kill while the monitor was still inspecting the carcass.The two big reptiles were scared of one another. In the understory of the mangroves, they looked to face off. However, neither appeared eager to engage in conflict with the other.The monitor lizard eventually moved on, leaving the king cobra by itself with its victim. The king cobra had separated itself from the python while battling the monitor lizard; it did not appear that it would return to finish its meal. At this point, a few HSS members dispersed.You don’t see a King every day, and in my case, I had to wait six years to see one. I made the decision to continue watching it for a while just in case it tried to eat an early dinner nevertheless.
It turned out that something interesting was going to happen! The python was beginning to be swallowed head first by the king cobra about 20 minutes after the other participants left the area.It was really an incredible sight to see! Snakes always appear to be exerting enormous effort while they eat. The king cobra swallowed the python entire in front of us over the course of the following 40 minutes, making this encounter no different.Funny enough, despite having just ingested a whole python, it didn’t appear all that much larger. Since it is more difficult for snakes to move around after such substantial meals, they typically stay in the area. The king cobra, on the other hand, appeared unconcerned and slithered away smoothly, probably in search of a hiding place to repose and digest its food.It’s amazing that such monumental events can still occur on a tiny island like Singapore. We’re fortunate to live next to them. Therefore, be on the lookout for them as you tour Singapore’s parks and gardens!
Keep a safe distance from any king cobras you come across, and record any sightings with pictures. These snakes are harmless to us, and their existence is a sign of a balanced ecology. Let’s rejoice about that!