king cobraScientific Name– Ophiophagus hannah

Conservation Status– Vulnerable

Appearance

The king cobra is the longest of all the venomous snakes. They can achieve a length of 5.5 metres (18 feet). They generally weigh 6kg (13 pounds). The male cobra is larger and thicker than the females.

The king cobra is coloured green, yellow, black or brown. Across the back is yellow bands and the underside is cream or yellow. A juvenile is jet black. Across their back they have yellow bands.

Lifespan                                                                                  

The king cobra can reach 20 years of age in the wild.

Diet

The king cobra is a carnivore. It lives mainly on a diet of other snakes, venomous and non-venomous. Occasionally they will take some birds or small mammals. If these foods are scarce they will also take rodents.

If they eat a large meal the king cobra does not need to eat for many more months.

Habitat

The king cobra hails from Asia. They live in India, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the Malay Peninsula.

King cobras inhabit highland forests which are covered in dense bush, bamboo thickets, mangrove swamps and rainforests. They are also known to occur in cultivated areas. They prefer spaces which have lakes or streams close by.

Reproduction

King cobras will breed between January and April. To find a mate the male will follow chemical signals that the female emits. When he finds one he will rub alongside her until she becomes receptive to mating.

After mating the female will build a nest. They are one of the only snakes which have been observed to do this. This nest forms a mound and is constructed of twigs and leaves. The female will deposit up to 50 eggs into the nest. Inside the nest the sticks and leaves break down producing heat. She vigorously defends this nest against predators for 60-days when the first young hatch. At this point the mother leaves. If she did not eat at that time she may devour her young.

The young are equipped with venom as potent as the adults from the first day and are left to fend for themselves.

Behaviour

The king cobra is mostly seen hunting during the day.

The venom of this snake is not the most potent of all the snakes. They can though inject the largest amount in one go which is capable of  killing 20 people or 1 elephant. They are normally shy but will attack when cornered.

The king cobra can lift one third of its body into an upright position. They are still able to strike while in this position. When attacking they emit a growl that sounds like a dog and they flare out their hood.

These snakes spend a lot of their life in the trees but they are equally comfortable on land.

Quick facts

These snakes are popular for being used by snake charmers. It is not the music the snakes are attracted to instead they follow the movement of the flute.

Photo Credits

By Michael Allen Smith from Seattle, USA (12 – The Mystical King Cobra and Coffee Forests) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons