King Cobra – the king of venomous snakes – lives up to its name. The snake displays a threatening hood and intimidating upright posture to scare off potential danger. But these aren’t the only weapons in its armory: it also produces a sound to intimidate. It takes a deep breath and exhales rapidly, producing a sound that can be compared to the growl of an angry German shepherd.
A full-grown King Cobra is olive green or dark brown, although some may incline toward the black color. It also has white or yellowish chevrons or crossbars. The belly may be ornamented with bars or uniform in color.
Habitat and geographical distribution
The King Cobra thrives in the thick bushes or burrows of the subtropical forest of Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar) where the temperatures are about 35 degrees Celsius. The snake prefers dense highland forests that are spotted with lakes or streams but can also be found in grasslands. In general, this snake lives in dense mangrove where there’s plenty of nesting grounds or bamboo thickets full of potential prey.
Habitat destruction, however, has seen many King Cobras flee agricultural areas, inevitably brushing shoulders with humans. Other than Southeast Asia, these snakes can also be found in India, southern and China. They are comfortable on land, trees, and in water, feeding mainly on other snakes. They’ll also eat small mammals, eggs, and lizards.
Communication and adaptations
The snake has better eyesight than most viper species – so good that it can see a moving person about 330 feet away. It also has an incredible sense of smell – boasting of one of the longest forked tongues in the viper kingdom. Although King Cobra has no ears, it can still pick vibrations from the ground – its how it dances to the tune from a charmer’s flute.
King Cobra has a much lower hiss than most snakes and can produce a sound like that of a dog’s growl. This sound comes from the tiny holes in the trachea. The male King Cobras can wrestle to please a rival. In the combat; the first snake to push the head of the other to the ground is the winner.
King Cobras’ venom is not the most potent in a list of venomous snakes – the title goes to the Inland taipan. However, the amount of neurotoxin they produce in a single bite – about seven millimeters – is enough to kill 20 people or even a full grown elephant. Luckily, they are shy and try to stay away from humans – unless threatened.
Many snakes produce venom that aims the victim’s circulatory system, damaging red cells as it spreads. But a King Cobra’s venom targets the central nervous system, interfering with the communication between nerve cells, eventually leading to blurred vision, extreme dizziness, lung, kidney and heart failures and often paralysis. Unless the victim gets immediate intervention, they can die within 30 minutes.
The longest venomous snake
Other than the deadly venom, the King cobra is known for its size. The long, graceful yet deadly predator grows up to 12 to 16 feet long. There was even one that grew 18 feet, 9 inches long in the mid-20th century. Although the reticulated python is the longest non-venomous snake in the world (growing over 25 feet) long; and the green anaconda is the heaviest snake in the world (weighing over 100 pounds), even the smallest King Cobra still looks pretty big when slithering towards you.
Fight or flight
As stated earlier on, King Cobras are shy and would rather stay away from humans. Even when they encounter humans, their first instinct is to flee. However, when they are cornered or in a bad mood, the snakes will first assume their signature defensive stance – rising more than one-third of their body off the ground. They stare the attacker in the eye, extend their hood and make that growling sound we mentioned earlier. When they attack, they can deliver either several bites or a single one and hold on.
An interesting fact about mother King Cobras is that they push branches and leaves into their nest piles to protect their eggs. They then remain on top of the nest to protect the eggs. What’s even surprising is that the male ones also remain close by, just in case an unexpected visitor arrives.
Why is it called the King?
King Cobras are called king because they are the ultimate killer of all the snakes – but even so, they are one of the most frightening animals in the world. Nothing gives you quite the same degree of fear and tension as a King Cobra. King Cobra is an animal that is so regal, so majestic- no wonder it’s called the king.