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Italy seal on state’s monocled cobra

A large snake caught in a cafeteria storeroom in Hazaribagh last year and identified as the common Indian cobra is actually its venomous monocled species, which is widespread across central and southern Asia, including India, but arguably seen for the first time in Jharkhand.

The Biodiversity Journal of Italy confirmed that cobra found on June 15, 2011, at Lake Cafeteria is the Naja kaouthia and not Naja naja.

Wildlife activist Satya Prakash and zoology mentor of Vinoba Bhave University Mohammed Raziuddin had sent details of the snake to Italy for identification on June 5 this year. The mission was supported by then DFO A.K. Mishra. The journal specified the identity of the snake on Friday.

The journal said the monocled cobra had often been spotted along the Gangetic plains of Bengal and in Odisha, Sikkim and Assam, but was never seen in Jharkhand before.

On how the snake was identified, the journal said the snake’s dorsal surface was cream in colour, while ventral surface was paler. The monocled cobra normally has an O-shaped, or monocellate, hood pattern, unlike that of its Indian cousin. The one found in Hazaribagh, however, was unique and didn’t have the hood mark, which caused the mistaken identity. It added that the ventral pattern was distinctive of Naja kaouthia.

The journal also thanked David Hill of Armed Forces Pest Management Board of US Army for his co-operation in identifying the snake.

Reported for the first in Jharkhand, the monocled cobra calls for special attention and conservation measures. Satya said the snake had been sent to Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park in Ormanjhi, near Ranchi, last year.