English name : Spectacled Cobra
Scientific Name : Naja naja
Tamil Name: Nalla Pambu
Description: Its Scales are smooth and glossy with a variable hood mark which might sometimes be absent. It varies in coloration from brown, yellow, gray or black often with a speckled pattern, sometimes banded pattern. This species has a spectacled pattern which is revealed when the snake rises is hood. It grows to 1 m in length and might grow longer than this also.
Distributions and status: It is distributed throughout mainland India (excluding the Northeast). Also found in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. Used to be extensively killed for its skin but now populations have recovered after a ban in hunting. Now its venom is used for preparing anti venom serum which has a medicinal value.
Habitat: Found almost anywhere in heavy jungle, open cultivated lands, in populated areas where there are old masonry buildings. White ant nests holes in the ground or the tangle of roots at the base of a tree are particularly favored. It is frequently found near water. It is absent in arid deserts and in the hills above 1,800 m.
Habits It is active by day and night. This is one of India’s commonest snakes. Evening hours are generally used for moving about and hunting. Usually not aggressive and exceedingly timid and occasionally aggressive and fierce when disturbed,. Young are much more aggressive than adults as they are easily excited and attack without provocation. The height to which the body is raised for hood is one third its length in adult snakes. Snake sways backwards and forwards hissing in an explosive manner which is brief and high pitched during inhalation and longer and lower pitched during exhalation. The snake bite is usually a mere snap but sometimes the snake might also cling on to the flesh.
Food: It feeds on rodents, toads, frogs, birds and snakes. It feeds exclusively on rats hence could be considered as friend of the farmer
Life cycle: Mating has been observed in January and eggs are laid in May. It lays to about 12 – 30 eggs which hatch in about 60 days. Females stay with the eggs till they hatch. If alarmed, may raise forebody (Some to more than half the body length) and spread hood. This is one of the four Common Venomous snake in India. All bites should be treated as an emergency and the patient should be rushed to a hospital for medical treatment. Poly valent anti venom serum is the only cure for cobra bite.
Role in the environment: Cobras keep a check on the rodent population which is a pest of crops hence could be considered a friend of the farmer. Polyvalent Anti venom serum is prepared from venom that is extracted from adults, is the only cure for a snake bite.
Photo source: Dr. J. Subramanean