English Name :King Cobra
Scientific Name : Ophiophagus hannah
Tamil Name : Rajaa naagam
Description: A large snake with scales smooth. Head broader than body. Gray, black,olive or yellowish brown with white or yellowish bands. Adults from Arunachal Pradesh do not have bands. Hood longer and broader than other cobras. Hatchlings have the prominent yellow bands that encircle the body and tail.
Distribution and status: Rare in India. King cobras occur in dense forests of the hills such as Western Ghats and northern hill forests. It occurs in Nilgiris and Palani’s and Western ghats up to Goa. Distributed in West Bngal, Bihar, Orissa and the Northeast upto to Arunachal Pradesh as well as Andaman and Nicobar islands. Also Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal all the way to the Philippines.
Habitats: King cobras seem to need conditions of heavy rainfall and inhabit the thick primary forest and estuarine mangrove swamps. It is common in parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Andamans. This is also encountered in tea estates in south India.
Habits Much has been written about the aggressive nature of this timid snake which is imaginative and not factual. King cobras have an intelligence that is unusual of snakes. If restrained or injured the snake will growl and charge with open mouth .King cobra venom is less toxic than cobra venom though the quantity discharged is more. Fortunately deaths are rare as this snake avoids humans.
Food: Basically a snake eater but sometimes eats monitor lizards. The main prey is rat snakes and checkered keel back while pit vipers are also taken. Rat snakes are killed by suffocation and also venomation when the rat snake is grabbed behind the neck. Adults grow to 3 m in length.
Life cycle: Females build nest of dead leaves and stay with the eggs until they hatch approximately 70 days later. This snake is fast and extremely alert. It is reluctant to attach unless provoked or disturbed. It is a rare sight to see males wrestling with one another over a female for courtship.
Role in the environment: King Cobras are associated with rain forests in various parts of India including heavy rainfall areas such as Agumbe in Karnataka. They are endangered because of habitat loss due to deforestation.
Photo source: Dr. J. Subramanean