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King Cobra Fact File

Ophiophagus hannah

Weight

6kg

(13lbs)

Length

5.5m

(18ft)

Lifespan

Wild 20 years

Captive 20 years

Diet

Carnivore

Other Snakes

Conservation Status

IUCN

Vulnerable

The king cobra is the world's longest species of venomous snake which is found in southern areas of the Asian continent.

As a carnivore they feed on other animals with adults tending to settle on a single species of snake which they will feed on.

They are one of the only snakes known to build a nest. In to this they will deposit their eggs. The female will remain close by to defend the nest against predators.

King cobras are considered vulnerable and face multiple threats including hunting for their skin and traditional medicine. They are also facing the loss of their habitat.

Learn more about them by reading on below.

Appearance

The king cobra is the longest of all the venomous snakes. They can achieve a length of 5.5m (18ft). They generally weigh 6kg (13lbs). The male cobra is larger and thicker than the females. Their body diameter is 12cm (4.72in) across.

Across the head are folds of skin which can be flattened out to form a hood on either side of the head. This is achieved through muscles and the ribs.


The king cobra is colored 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.

Diet


The king cobra is a carnivore. It lives mainly on a diet of other snakes, venomous and non-venomous. Adults tend to settle on a diet of a single species of snake and refuse other species even if they find them. They may consume species up to 3m (10ft) in length.

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.

King Cobra

Range

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

Habitat

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.

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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 is a mound 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.

King cobras are believed to be the only snake which will build a nest.


She vigorously defends this nest against predators for 60 days until the first young hatch. At this point the mother leaves. If she did not eat in this time she may devour her young.

Juvenile king cobras are colored jet black with crossbars which are white or yellow.


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

Sexual maturity is reached by five years old.

Behavior

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.

Males engage in ritual combat during which they aim to push their opponents head to the ground to win.

Predators and Threats

Young individuals may be threatened by mongooses and giant centipedes. Humans appear to be the only threat to adults.

When threatened they will spread out the hood and hiss.

King cobras are threatened by humans through habitat destruction to enable logging and expansion of agriculture. They have shown an ability to live in degraded habitat.

They are also hunted for traditional medicines, their skin, food or pets. King cobras may also be killed due to fear of these large snakes.

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

Top

Rushen, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle One and Two

Public Domain

Bottom

Michael Allen Smith from Seattle, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Stuart, B., Wogan, G., Grismer, L., Auliya, M., Inger, R.F., Lilley, R., Chan-Ard, T., Thy, N., Nguyen, T.Q., Srinivasulu, C. & Jelić, D. 2012. Ophiophagus hannah. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T177540A1491874. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2012-1.RLTS.T177540A1491874.en. Downloaded on 26 April 2020.Animals.sandiegozoo.org. 2020. Cobra | San Diego Zoo Animals & Plants. [online] Available at: <https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/cobra> [Accessed 26 April 2020].

Stlzoo.org. 2021. King Cobra | Saint Louis Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.stlzoo.org/animals/abouttheanimals/reptiles/snakes/kingcobra> [Accessed 7 July 2021].

San Diego Zoo. 2021. King Cobra. [online] Available at: <https://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/animals/king-cobra> [Accessed 7 July 2021].

Australiazoo.com.au. 2021. Check out our King Cobra at Australia Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.australiazoo.com.au/wildlife/our-animals/king-cobra/> [Accessed 7 July 2021].

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