The King Cobra, found in India is the largest venomous snake in the world.
In a single bite it can inject enough venom to kill an elephant - up to
6- 7 ml. This is enough to kill up to 20 people. The King Cobra is worshipped
in India, particularly on the festive occasion of Nag Panchami and is depicted
in sculptures on temple walls and celebrated in myth and legend. The venom
of King Cobras has a paralyzing effect on the nerves and has been used to
develop painkillers used to treat arthritis in humans.
King Cobras are found across South East Asia from India
through Southern China, Vietnam Malaysia Indonesia and the Philippines.
The largest recorded King Cobras have been found in peninsular Malaysia.
Exact numbers of King Cobra population in
India are unknown. They are considered an endangered species.
King Cobras grow to an average length
of 3 m. The longest recorded King Cobra was 5.58 m. When threatened the
King Cobra reacts by putting on a threat display. It rises to one-third
the length of its body, spreads its hood and emits a hissing noise. The
color of a King Cobra's body can range from black to gray to brownish
green. The belly is usually white or cream in color. Young King Cobras,
which are about 14 inches long, have bright markings on their bodies.
They often have yellow, white or black bands across their bodies. These
bright bands fade with time to become the broad chevron like markings
seen on adult cobras.
King Cobras prefer rainforest and humid jungle. Thick
undergrowth, cool swamps and bamboo clusters. Cobras prefer to avoid human
habitation. The destruction of their habitat has led to increased human
cobra conflict. Cobras can slide up trees and bushes and spend a significant
amount of time above the ground, looking for prey.
King Cobras feed on other snakes and small reptiles. It's
preferred diet is non-venomous snakes such as the Rat Snake but also eats
venomous snakes such as the Common or Indian Cobra, smaller King Cobras
and Kraits. It can eat snakes that are almost its own length and also
eats monitor lizards, frogs and other small amphibians and reptiles. The
King cobra kills striking its prey with its fangs and injecting a lethal
amount of venom. It then swallows its prey whole.
King Cobras can rise up to one-third their length and
look for prey or as a defensive gesture. They rarely attack humans and
will only strike to protect its eggs, in self-defense or when threatened
or provoked. The King Cobra prefers to avoid confrontation with humans.
Male King Cobras wrestle with each other in ritual mating contests for
a female cobra. King Cobras are the only snakes that make nests for their
eggs. The female snake or Queen brings together a pile of leaves. As the
leaves decay they generate heat, which keeps the eggs warm. The Queen
lays 20-40 eggs in the base of the nest and curls up above them to keep
them warm till they hatch. The eggs are incubated for 2 months. During
this time the Queen will defend her nest from any predators. The Queen
leaves the nest just before the young snakes emerge from their eggs. In
India the traditional belief is that King Cobras mate for life. King Cobras
shed their skin several times a year in a process known as ecdysis.