Grade levels 
 

King Cobra

 
 

Image: Wikipedia.org (Creative Commons License)

Description: The highly venomous King Cobra is the world’s longest venomous snake, growing to a maximum length of nearly 19 feet, though it averages about 12 feet in length. They can weigh up to 20 pounds. Though the King Cobra’s venom is powerful enough to kill up to 20 human being with a single bite, most bites prove non-fatal. In addition, King Cobras avoid humans when possible and first emit a startling “hiss” when confronted. The King Cobra is tan, olive, black, or brown in coloration with pale yellow crossbands throughout the body. Its head is extremely large and appears “hooded” when raised. This snake is proteroglyphic, which means it delivers venom to its victims through two hollow fangs. Synthesized King Cobra Venom is actually used as a painkiller and ingredient in arthritis medications. The King Cobra is the snake used in “snake-charming” practices in India. This snake is actually deaf to ambient noises and cannot hear the music, rather, it senses the vibrations, shape, and movement of the charmer’s flute. Like all snakes, the King Cobra will “shed” its skin four to six times per year.

Diet: The King Cobra generally feeds on other snakes, lizards, small mammals, and eggs. It uses its forked tongue to locate prey by smell and its keen eyesight. Like many snakes, the King Cobra will unhinge its jaws to swallow prey whole. After a large meal, it may not eat for several weeks.

Habitat/Range: The King Cobra is a highly adaptable species that prefers forested regions with sources of water. It ranges throughout most of southeast Asia from western India to the Philippine Islands.

Breeding: Male King Cobras “wrestle” each other for the right to mate with a female. After mating, the female King Cobra will gather material and start making a nest for her eggs. The King Cobra is the only species of snake known to prepare nests. The female lays up to 50 eggs which she incubates and guards for 60-80 days before they hatch. Young snakes emerge from the eggs measure 18-20 inches in length and are banded with black and white.

Status: The King Cobra is widespread but uncommon. Populations are thought to be in a moderate decline because of habitat destruction.