The King Cobra is to be both respected and feared. They are the longest venomous snakes on Earth, reaching lengths of 18 feet and can be found throughout Africa, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia.
The King Cobra has hollow fangs fixed at the front of the mouth that they use to inject their venom through. They have a fantastic sense of smell and night vision, and in addition to the trademark hood, they have round pupils and smooth scales.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists the King Cobra as being “vulnerable” meaning that they are at high risk of extinction in the wild. This is due to loss of habitat and over exploitation for medicinal purposes.
While the King Cobra doesn’t have the most potent venom amongst snakes, the amount of neurotoxin that they can emit in a single bite is enough to kill 20 people. Luckily for us, they don’t deliberately go out of their way to attack people and will avoid us when they can. With this being said, if you stumble across a nesting female, she will attack without provocation.
When threatened, the King Cobra can raise the anterior part of their body about three to four feet off the ground and are able to follow their enemy in this position over considerable distances. The king cobra will also hiss and flatten its neck ribs into a hood. This is not a species that you want to be eye to eye with.
You will undoubtedly know of the King Cobra as being a popular species for snake charmers but according to National Geographic, they cannot actually hear the music (being deaf to ambient noise). They are enticed by the shape and movement of the flute.
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When bitten, death results in at least 50 to 60 percent of human cases when left untreated.
King Cobra Quick Facts
- What is the scientific name for the King Cobra? The scientific name for the King Cobra is Ophiophagus hannah.
- What is the conservation status of the King Cobra? They’re classed as being vulnerable meaning that they are at high risk of extinction in the wild.
- How long are King Cobra fangs? The fangs of the King Cobra are almost 0.5 inches (8 to 10 millimeters) long.
- How long and heavy does the King Cobra grow? The king cobra’s average size is 10 to 12 feet (3 to 3.6 meters), but it can reach 18 feet (5.4 meters). They can weigh up to 20 lbs.
- What is the habitat of the King Cobra? They prefer streams in dense or open forest, bamboo thickets, adjacent agricultural areas and dense mangrove swamps. They spend almost a fourth of their time up in trees or bushes.
- What is the lifespan of the King Cobra? On average, they can live to about 20 years in the wild.
- What does the King Cobra eat? In the wild, the king cobra normally restricts its diet to cold-blooded animals, particularly other snakes such as the Asian rat snakes, dhamans and pythons up to about ten feet in length. They may also dine on venomous Indian cobras, kraits and even small king cobras.
- How many eggs do King Cobras lay? King cobras are oviparous and lay 21 to 40 white, leathery eggs. They are the only snakes in the world that build nests for their eggs.
- What happens to your body when bitten? Venom quickly attacks the central nervous system inducing severe pain, blurred vision, dizziness, drowsiness, and paralysis. If untreated, heart failure followed by coma and death can ensue. A single bite can cause the death of a healthy adult in 15-30 minutes.
How to Prevent a King Cobra Bite
1) Don’t mess with them – if you come across a snake while out hiking, leave it alone, back away slowly and go a different route. Play games with a King Cobra and you won’t win. They don’t want to attack you and are more scared of us than we are of them so let them be.
2) Suitable clothing – If you are heading into snake territory, wear thick boots and leg protection. Many bites occur because the snake was accidentally stood on.
3) Be cautious in their habitat – As they spend almost a fourth of their time up in trees, keep that in mind when walking in wooded areas. This being said, you need to keep your eyes down also to avoid stepping on them and you can keep an eye out ahead so you have warning to go a different route. A walking stick can be useful to prod areas before stepping to alert the snake of your presence before your foot gets there.
4) Leave logs and rocks alone – If you know that there is a chance of encountering a King Cobra, don’t go round moving rocks or logs that they may be hiding under.
5) Sleeping – Never sleep directly on the ground. Elevation and some type of bounded shelter is ideal.
6) If walking at night – Use a light of some kind at the first signs of darkness. Not only will the light help you see snakes but it will also alert them of a presence, making them less likely to attack due to being startled.
What to do if You’re Bitten
- Contact the emergency services for help as soon as possible. The faster you can get an antivenom the better.
- Try not to move unless absolutely necessary. It is important that you remain calm and relaxed to avoid raising your heartbeat too much.
- Do not elevate the bitten area, keep it below the level of the heart.
- Do not consume caffeine, energy drinks, alcohol, medications, or any type of drug.
- Do not apply a tourniquet or ice.
- Remove any constricting clothing or jewelry like watches, necklaces, or tight clothes.
- Clean the wound and cover, but try not to rub the area too much or apply pressure.
- Only use a suction technique if you feel it would take too long to reach medical help. This technique often doesn’t help, cutting an incision should only be done by professionals.
- Don’t apply ice to the wound. Ice can cause tissue and skin damage and inhibits the removal of venom when using a suction device.
- Never try sucking the venom from the wound with your mouth.