Space fit for a king: spatial ecology of king cobras (Ophiophagus hannah) in Sakaerat Biosphere Reserve, Northeastern Thailand

in Amphibia-Reptilia
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Abstract

A species’ spatial ecology has direct implications for that species’ conservation. Far-ranging species may be more difficult to conserve because their movements increase their chances of encountering humans. The movements can take them out of protected areas, which is especially risky for species that are routinely persecuted. The king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), a large venomous elapid, is subject to anthropogenic pressures, such as persecution and habitat loss. Here we present results from a study using radio telemetry to quantify movements and habitat use of nine king cobras in and around a protected area in Northeast Thailand. This study is the first investigation into the movements and habitat use of king cobras outside of the Western Ghats, India. On average, the tracked king cobra’s use areas of 493.42 ± 335.60 ha (95% fixed kernel), moving 183.24 ± 82.63 m per day. King cobras did not remain in intact forested area. Five of the individuals frequently used the human-dominated agricultural areas surrounding the protected area, appearing to make regular use of irrigation canals. Two adult males showed increases in movements during the breeding season. One male’s increased breeding season range caused him to venture beyond the protected area, shifting his habitat use from intact forests to scrub in human-dominated areas. King cobras’ large home range and willingness to use anthropogenic landscapes merits special consideration from conservation planners.

Space fit for a king: spatial ecology of king cobras (Ophiophagus hannah) in Sakaerat Biosphere Reserve, Northeastern Thailand

in Amphibia-Reptilia

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References

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Figures

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    Location of the Sakaerat Biosphere Reserve (SBR) in Thailand. Alongside a map of the Core (smallest central green area), Buffer (intermediate lighter green area) and Transitional areas (largest and palest area) of the SBR. Scale is in m and corresponds to the 47N UTM region.

  • View in gallery

    Characteristics of all caught king cobras. SVL = snout vent length. HL = Head length. HW = Head width. Snakes marked with * have their characteristics averaged over multiple captures.

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    Movements and Home Range Size. “# Tracked” is the number of the days tracked for. “MDD” is the mean distance in metres covered per day. “MCP” is the area of the Minimum Convex Polygon based upon 95% of the locations in hectares. “95% K” is the 95% fixed density kernel in hectares. “50% K” is the 50% fixed density kernel in hectares. “H value” is the optimised h kernel smoothing factor used to estimate home range. “Most Used Land Use” is the habitat that contained the most unique locations. Land use abbreviations: DEF – Dry Evergreen Forest, DDF – Dry Dipterocarp Forest.

  • View in gallery

    The home ranges of the tracked king cobras. Dark areas are settlements. Dark line is the 304 Highway. Scales is based in m and corresponds to the 47N UTM region. Dashed line shows the 95% MCP, single hashed areas correspond to the activity area, and the double hashed areas are the individual’s core area. Crosses represent a confirmed snake location.

  • View in gallery

    Habitat preferences for all the tracked king cobras calculated using Duncan’s Index. All preferences are calculated using the 95% fixed kernel home range. Habitat codes: AGR – agriculture, DDF – dry dipterocarp forest, DEF – dry evergreen forest, FOR – forest fragments outside of core SERS area, OTH – other trace habitat types within core SERS area, PLTS – plantation forest within buffer SERS area, PLT – plantations outside of buffer SERS area, SCR – scrub, SET – settlement, WAT – waterbody.

  • View in gallery

    The home ranges of AM006 and AM007 during breeding (February, March, and April) and non-breeding seasons. Dashed line shows the 95% MCP, single hashed areas correspond to the activity area, and the double hashed areas are the individual’s core area. Crosses represent a confirmed snake location. Scale is in m and corresponds to the 47N UTM region.

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