Tuesday, May 26, 2009

King Cobra | Ophiophagus hannah

Labels: Cobra, Naga Raja

Binomial name:
Ophiophagus hannah
Common name
: King Cobra

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Ophiophagus
Species: O. hannah


Distinguishing Features: Large; smooth, shiny scales; distinct light cross bands mainly on fore-body; large head scales edged with black.

Average Length: 3 m; At Birth: 50 cm; Maximum: 5 m (male).

Description: The huge head of the Giant King Cobra is wider than their neck. The overall colour varies from yellowish to deep olive-green but the tail is often jet-black. The underside has a lighter shade of the body colour. They are the largest venomous snakes in the world.

Distribution: King Cobras are rare in India. They are confined mostly to the dense forests of the Western Ghats up to Goa, the Himalayan foot-hills. Also found in forests of Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal and the Andamans.

Habitat: In general King Cobras occur in tea and coffee plantations of the lower elevations up to 1200 m above sea level. They seem to require special conditions of heavy rainfall and dense undergrowth. However, they are not restricted to the hills, but also inhabit estuarine mangrove swamps in Bengal, Orissa and the Andamans.

Habits: The aggressive nature of this magnificent snake has been wrongly portrayed and written about, whereas they are more imaginative than factual. In reality, King Cobras are timid snakes, unwilling to attackseeking escape when possible. In the field, they are awesome looking and both man and snake beat a speedy retreat. The snake may charge with open mouth, emitting a deep growl, if injured or harmed in any way. These snakes behave with an intelligence and awareness which is usually atypical in snakes.

Young: Not much is known about the breeding habits of Indian King Cobras. Females may lay up to 20 eggs. Females rub together leaves with their body construct a conical nest about 30 cm high. After laying eggs, she then coils on top of this leaf heap for about 2 months, for the young ones to hatch. King Cobras are they only species in the world known to build nest.

Food: Their diet chiefly comprises of snakes, and sometimes lizards. The Rat snake and Checkered Keelback seem to be their main prey. They kill their prey by suffocating it and biting the throat, probably envenomating it as well.

Status: They are rare snakes within their declining forest range and have an uncertain prospect. They are usually killed when encountered on plantations. King Cobras should be considered a threatened species and well protected in India.

Venom: Their venom is faintly less poisonous than the cobra’s but the huge venom glands can contain up to 6 ccs of venom, enough to kill an elephant. The anti-venom is available only in Thailand.

No comments:

Post a Comment