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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Monocled Cobra

Species : Naja kaouthia
Maximum Size : 2.3 metres

Naja kaouthia (Monocled Cobra or Monocellate Cobra) inhabits many parts of mainland Southeast Asia and beyond. It occurs in a variety of habitats including lowland and hill forest to around 800 metres, plantations, grasslands and agricultural areas such as rice paddies. It is terrestrial and, reportedly, is most active at dusk.

Its colour is highly variable, ranging from yellowish to brownish to black. In all cases there is a single, pale eye marking on the back of the hood ('monocellate' means 'single eye'). Narrow bands may be present across the back. The throat is pale in colour, sometimes with paired dark blotches.

Its diet includes a variety of small vertebrates such as rodents, fish and frogs.

This snake is a favourite of traditional snake-charmers, as it readily spreads its hood; released or escaped examples may occur in some places.

Like its cousin, the Equatorial Spitting Cobra, the Monocled Cobra is able to spit venom from its modified fangs, although this defence mechanism has only been reported from populations in West Bengal, India (Santra & Wster, 2017). In Thailand, this species causes the highest number of deaths by snakebite (Pratanaphon et al, 1997).

Naja kaouthia ranges from northeastern India, Nepal and Bhutan through Bangladesh, southernmost China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and southern Vietnam to northern Peninsular Malaysia (including Penang Island).

In Peninsular Malaysia, roadkill examples have been found as far south as 3 kilometres south of The Gap (Semangkok Pass) at an elevation of 800 metres, near Fraser's Hill (Leong & Gttensohn, 2018).

Figs 1 and 2 : Monocled Cobra in a roadside drain in the grounds of an apartment block at the base of Penang Hill; the snake would have emerged from nearby hill forest. Photos thanks to Graeme Guy.

Fig 3 : Hill forest on Penang Island extends to the boundary of high-rise apartment blocks.

Fig 4 : Roadkill example, with an estimated total length of 100 cm,  from near The Gap (Semangkok Pass), Selangor, Peninsular Malaysia, elevation 800 metres. The area is dominated by primary hill forest.

References : H12

Leong, T. M. & Gttensohn, T. T. (2018). Two roadkill records of Monocled Cobra Naja kaouthia from Peninsular Malaysia. Southeast Asia Vertebrate Records. 2017 : 003-005. [pdf]

Pratanaphon, R., Akesowan, S., Khow, O., Sriprapat, S., Ratanabanangkoon, K. (1997). Production of highly potent horse antivenom against the Thai cobra (Naja kaouthia). Vaccine. 15 (14): 15231528.

Santra, Vishal, Wster, Wolfgang (2017). Naja kaouthia behavior/spitting. Herpetological Review. 48 (2): 455.

Links :

Reptile Database

Fig 1

ゥ  Graeme Guy

Fig 2

ゥ  Graeme Guy

Fig 3
Fig 4

ゥ  Anon