Known as: King Cobra
Estimated numbers left in wild: Unknown, but declining
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Description of King Cobra
The king cobra is the longest venomous snake in the world, with most of the snakes measuring between 3 to 4 meters, although some specimens have achieved a length of 5.5 meters.
Unlike constrictors, the king cobra is a slender snake, usually weighing 6 to 10 kilograms, with the heaviest cobra (which lived in a zoo) weighing 12.6 kilos. The undersides of the snakes are very light yellow or cream in colour while the dorsal surface is black or dark green with lighter bands. Young king cobras are more brightly patterned, although this darkens as the snakes age.
This snake is rightly feared throughout its range as its poison is highly neurotoxic. While the king cobra’s venom is not the most potent, the large amount that will be delivered with a bite would be enough to kill an elephant or several dozen human beings.
Those who are bitten often die of cardiac arrest. However, because the king cobra tends to be shy and reclusive, keeping to areas of dense vegetation (forests, bamboo stands, mangrove swamps), they interact fairly infrequently with people. King cobras will try to retreat when confronted, but if unable to, they will attack aggressively, raising themselves up and spreading their hood.
Biting is the usual way of delivering the venom, but they can also spit, aiming at the eyes.
King cobras mate during the first 3 months of the year. The female builds a two chambered nest out of vegetation in which she lays her 20 to 50 eggs in the lower room and then she remains in the upper chamber to guard the clutch. The heat from the rotting vegetation incubates the eggs which can take up to 3 months. Just before the eggs hatch, the female leaves before she is tempted to eat her offspring.
The king cobra’s diet consists mostly of other snakes, especially rat snakes and small pythons. However this snake will eat other venomous snakes such as other cobra species and kraits.
When reptilian food is scare, the king cobra will take birds, lizards, and small mammals. The hatchlings are highly venomous from birth, and tend to be more skittish than the adults.
The king cobra’s range extends throughout most of South-East Asia and includes India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, the southern parts of China, Laos, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia.
See Related: Most Endangered Amphibians
Conservation of King Cobra
The main threats to the king cobra come directly from man and from habitat destruction as a result of deforestation. Previous generations of people from South-East Asia, particularly India, often viewed the king cobra in a religious sense and tolerated its presence more than now, when people are less likely to want to share space with a potentially dangerous animal.
And, as more land is put to agricultural use, it increases the chance that humans will come into contact with the snake. King cobras are also looked upon as a source of meat, skins, and are also used to make traditional medicines, which adversely affects their numbers.
The Agumbe Rainforest Research Station in India offers a sanctuary not only for king cobras, but for other indigenous species. CITES has included the king cobra on its roster of animals that need a permit for export, and also sets quotas on how many of the cobras can be exported yearly.
Do you know of or are you a part of an organization that work to conserve the King Cobra, then please contact us to have it featured on Our Endangered World.