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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2020

 
 
     
   
   

 

   
   
 
King Cobra
   
   

Fig 1


Fig 2
 

Fig 3


Fig 4


Fig 5

 

 

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 streams.

Adults can 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 Southeast Asia.


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.

Fig 5 : The King Cobra is an excellent swimmer. This  example was seen in an inlet in Singapore.


References : H1, H2, H3