ENVIRONMENTAL experts emphasized the importance of refraining from attacking snakes, particularly king cobras, locally known as banakon, stressing that cobras typically do not bite unless provoked.
Carlo Babiera, ecosystems management specialist of Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Visayas (DENR 7), urged the public to adopt a cautious and informed approach when facing these snakes either in their natural habitat or spotting them in residential areas.
Cobras, known for their potent venom, are often misunderstood creatures that play a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance by controlling rodent populations.
While their fearsome reputation precedes them, experts stressed that these snakes prefer to avoid confrontation and will only strike as a last resort.
"Let us keep our distance because people's thoughts, especially on social media, when they see a snake or a king cobra, it might attack them. Wild animals, including wildlife, as part of their defense mechanism. If they feel provoked, they may retaliate," Babiera said on Tuesday, January 30, 2024.
He added that when confronted, cobras usually exhibit warning signs, such as hissing, before resorting to defensive measures.
Babiera said that in the best-case scenario, maintaining a safe distance of at least five meters away and allowing the snake to move away is the most advisable course of action.
He added that cobras, especially those found in the wild, will not attack when left undisturbed. Thus, it is advised to let them crawl without coming close to people to avoid any potential attacks, and they will go to where they were headed.
"First of all, if we happen to encounter any type of snake, we should consider and think of them as venomous. Let us not be overconfident, even if we see a common snake in the house and think it's not a cobra. Let's treat all of them as venomous so that we remain cautious and aware," he said.
He added that if a cobra is spotted in a residential area, it is crucial not to resort to killing them. Instead, the public is urged to take immediate action by alerting the authorities.
He advised the public to contact local wildlife authorities or animal control and local government units rather than attempting to handle the situation independently.
Attempting to kill the cobra independently might worsen the situation and increase the risk of getting bitten and poisoned by the venom, he said.
This approach ensures the safety of both residents and the snake, allowing professionals to manage the situation appropriately and relocate the cobra to a safer environment, Babiera added.
Rainier Manlegro, who is also a ecosystems management specialist of DENR 7, said that the reason why cobras and other snakes may be found in homes is due to the presence of rodents such as rats.
"A biodiverse area has a symbiotic relationship, such as prey-predator relationship. Snakes are commonly found in areas infested with rats, as rats constitute their primary food source," he said.
Manlegro emphasized the importance of implementing effective rodent control measures to deter snakes from entering residential spaces.
He also urged homeowners to maintain cleanliness as a preventive measure, reducing the attractiveness of homes to rats.
He said the frequent reports of cobra sightings on social media, particularly those occurring in the wild, can be attributed to the growing population of people, saying that as the population expands, individuals are constructing homes near the natural habitats of these animals.
He also highlighted the role of technology, emphasizing that people can now easily share these sightings, even though cobras have been long existing in our environment even before.
Manlegro added that the king cobra is a common species in Asia. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise to spot them, especially in the wild.
He also advised the public to refrain from killing cobras, recognizing them as vital components of wildlife. Engaging in such acts may not only disrupt the natural balance of ecosystems but also violate existing laws, he said.
Authorities said harming or killing wildlife, including cobras, is subject to prevailing environmental protection laws and sanctions, such as the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act or Republic Act 9147 of 2001.
This legislation specifically addresses the conservation and protection of wildlife, with provisions against the killing, collection, and trade of endangered species.
"There are exemptions in the law, but it only states that you can kill an animal if your life is already endangered," said Manlegro. (KJF)