King cobras are probably one of the most widely known venomous snakes in the world. They live mainly in Southeast Asia, and are also the world’s largest venomous snake. These animals are famous for the flaps of skin hanging from their neck. This skin can be extended in order to make a threatened cobra look bigger to its enemy. A full-grown cobra can stand up high enough to look an average adult human in the eye. Surprisingly, the king cobra does not belong to the true cobra genus, but instead it belongs to its own genus Ophiophagus. This word is made up of two Latin words, ophio, meaning snake, and phagus, meaning eater. The king cobra’s genus refers to its habit of frequently eating other snakes. These snakes are considered fast learners, and in captivity they can distinguish their caregivers from strangers. King cobras are the only snakes to build nests, and some experts say that this is another proof of their intelligence. To watch a video of a king cobra click here.
Although the king cobra does not have as strong venom as most true cobras, it makes up for this by delivering up to one teaspoon of venom in one bite. This dose is enough to kill an adult elephant, or at least twenty adult humans! This venom is fast-acting and can shut down the nervous system, lungs, and heart in just a few minutes. It also contains a toxin that starts digesting the prey as soon as the bite is delivered. These fangs can be half an inch ( 1.3 cm) long. This enables them to inject the venom deep into the skin
I said earlier that other snakes make up a majority of the king cobra’s diet, and these animals can even eat other venomous snakes. They will also eat lizards, frogs and occasionally small mammals. King cobras can slightly change color in order to hide from their prey. It has been noticed that individuals in the jungle often are darker than when they are in grasslands. While these animals sometimes bite humans, this is only in self-defense as humans are way too big for these snakes to eat.
The average size of an adult king cobra is thirteen feet (4 m) from head to tail. Some king cobras are larger than this at up to eighteen feet (5.5 m) long. Because king cobras can lift one third of their body off of the ground, an individual this long would be able to lift six feet (1.8 m) off the ground and look an average adult human in the eye! An adult’s weight can range from twelve to twenty pounds (5.4 to 9 kg).
Mating, eggs, and young
King cobras mate early in the year, starting in January and continuing through March. The female lays twenty to fifty eggs which are laid in April through June. Adult cobras will stay with their mate for the rest of the season, and it is thought that they may mate with the same individual each year. Both parents will work together to guard the nest. This nest is special because it is made up of two chambers. The bottom chamber contains the eggs while the top one houses the parents who protect the eggs. Because king cobras , as with all other reptiles, do not produce their own heat, the cobra eggs are incubated by the heat produced by rotting vegetation in the nest. Sixty to ninety days after being laid, the eggs hatch, and the parents leave the nest soon before they hatch. Some scientists think this is because the female may have been fasting for months and does not want to be tempted to eat her own young. At birth, the young king cobras are only around fifteen inches (38 cm) long, but their venom is just as toxic as the adults’. Despite this, their small size allows them to be preyed on by mongooses, army ants, and large centipedes. Once the young king cobras reach four years of age, they start mating. If lucky, a captive king cobra can live for around twenty years.
Threats and status
Despite being highly venomous, even adult king cobras are preyed on by some animals. Their main natural predators include birds of prey and the mongoose. The power of the mongoose to kill king cobras was made famous by Rudyard Kipling’s short story Rikki Tikki Tavi. Many facts in this story are incorrect, however. Humans kill king cobras for various reasons including fear, but these animals can actually help humans. Various parts of the king cobra are used in traditional Chinese medicines. The venom of these animals can also treat pain and various illnesses. Habitat loss is another killer of king cobras. Due to all of these threats, these animals are considered vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Some king cobras are captured in order to milk for antivenon, but these individuals are returned to the wild or kept in captivity, not usually killed.
King cobras are a common species of snake used in snake charming. The charmer will use a type of flute to make music which supposedly makes the snake “dance,” moving its head back and forth. The real reason these snakes “dance” is that they are moving their head to follow the flute which is also moving back and forth. The king cobras cannot even hear the music the flute is making, and although they can hear noises, they mainly use this sense to hear vibrations in the ground.
Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess of what the next animal is! Also check out the coloring sheet under sources.
- Coloring sheet
- Smithsonian Handbooks Reptiles and Amphibians. Mark O’Shea and Tim Halliday, Smithsonian Institution, ISBN: 978-0-7566-6009-3
- Animals of the world. Tom Jackson, ISBN: 978-1780191089
- Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide. David Burnie and Don E. Wilson, Smithsonian Institution, ISBN: 978-0-7566-6002-4
- King cobra – Michael Allen Smith
- King cobra range map – Mad Max
- Mystery animal – “Programa de Conservación Ex-situ del Lince Ibérico www.lynxexsitu.es”