Family : ELAPIDAE
Species : Ophiophagus hannah
Maximum Size : 5.85 metres
The aptly-named King Cobra
is the world's largest venomous snake. Its name is familiar to the general
public, on account of its fierce reputation, and its appearance in
'snake-shows' in parts of Asia.
In Southeast Asia the species appears to be
far less aggressive than its cousins in India. Females can be extremely
aggressive, however, when defending their clutch of eggs, concealed in nest
built of vegetation. A single bite from a King Cobra may result in a
fatality if not quickly treated.
The species inhabits forests and plantations from the
lowlands to around 2000 metres elevation. It feeds mainly on other snakes,
particularly rat snakes, and
sometimes lizards. The scientific name of Ophiophagus means
'snake-eating'. Active by day or night, it is commonly found patrolling forest
be identified by their huge size and, when fully spread, their majestic
hood. Smaller specimens may be confused with rat snakes. The most reliable
means to identification are the large, black-edged head shields (i.e. the
scales on top of the head).
Body colour can be various shades of brown including
olive-brown, yellow-brown, medium brown, dark brown, or occasionally black.
Juveniles are dark bodied with equally-spaced, narrow, pale yellow bands,
and a pale yellow underside.
The King Cobra ranges from India, Bangladesh and
other parts of the Indian Subcontinent to Southern China and most of
Figs 1 to 4 : Four images of a large, 3.5 metre specimen found searching
the base of a tree at Taman Negara, Pahang, Peninsular Malaysia
: H1, H2, H3