King Cobra, the longest poisonous snake, friend of snake charmers


As hypnotized by the sound of the flute, the king cobra is known for the undulating dance he performs in front of the snake charmer. Capable of inflicting a bite deadly, the reptile fascinates as much as it scares. Meet.

Royal Cobra: identity card

Considered the longest snake venomous in the world, the king cobra belongs to the class of reptiles and the family of elapidae. Living in Southeast Asia, it can reach a size of 5 meters in length for a weight of between 8 and 15 kg (the male being more massive than the female).

The hood of the king cobra

The slender, muscular body of the king cobra is extended by a narrow head. This is distinguished by a cap, a sort of cap characteristic of the species, which is actually an extension of the ribs cervical at the nape of the neck. Its scaly skin of black, greenish or brown color is crossed by light bands. The ventral part has a yellowish tone.

King Cobra: a fatal poison

When he feels threat, the reptile raises a third of its body vertically and deploys its hood in order to intimidate its attacker. A whistling often precedes the attack. While its venom is one of the least toxic of all elapids, the dose injected is large enough to make the bite fatal. Its venom contains a neurotoxin that damages the the nervous system of the victim, very quickly causing blurred vision, dizziness and facial paralysis. The hypoxic coma is followed by an arrest of the respiratory system which leads to death by asphyxia. In the event of a bite in humans, a serum anti-venom is effective if administered on time.

The king cobra and the snake charmer

The snake charmer (or psyllid) impresses tourists with the power it exerts over the reptile. If he seems bewitched by the sound of the flute, the king cobra is nonetheless deaf and does not react to the music but to the vibrations caused by the musician who stamps his foot on the ground. Faced with the slow movements of the flute, which he perceives as an enemy, the elapid takes a defensive position and waves with the musical instrument to control the situation. The art of the psyllid is to stand at the ideal distance: close enough to control the reptile but far enough to avoid an attack.

In impenetrable or inhabited environments

The king cobra lives in South Asia (China, India, Philippines, Indochina, Malaysia…). It evolves as much in tropical forests dense, jungle, agricultural areas, mangroves, estuaries than in areas desert. The snake frequents the most inaccessible and wild places but also inhabited environments such as parks and gardens where it enters. conflict with local populations. It can be found on the ground or in the trees, up to 2,000 m altitude.

The king cobra, a cannibal

The king cobra follows a predominantly carnivorous diet ophiophagus, that is to say that it feeds mainly on snakes (snakes, pythons, bongares …), including those of its own species (cannibalism). Its immunity to the venom of other poisonous snakes allows it to survive bites. Occasionally, the king cobra consumes other reptiles (monitor lizards, geckos, lizards, etc.), small mammals (rats, mice, squirrels, etc.) as well as birds. During the day, it remains camped in the rocks or on a tree branch and waits for prey to approach to follow it. silently. Once within range of fangs, it executes a lightning attack with its mouth wide open and lands its victim with a deadly bite.

King Cobra: vulnerable when molting

As seen previously, the king cobra is deaf and uses its forked tongue (Jacobson’s organ), to orient oneself in space. Many moults annuals allow him to grow taller when his skin becomes too small for him. During this period of desquamation, the animal hides because, by losing its agility, it becomes vulnerable facing its predators. Adopting a very territorial, the king cobra vigorously defends its domain and can be particularly aggressive when an intruder approaches its nest. Of a nature solitary, the reptile only meets its congeners to reproduce.

The female abandons her eggs

Reproduction begins at the start of the dry season. The king cobra is oviparous : Egg hatching occurs outside the body. The construction of the nest (he is one of the rare snakes to make), is provided by the female using branches, leaves and other plants. The couple usually choose a location in the brush and near a water point. After a gestation period that lasts about 8 weeks, the mother lays 20 to 40 eggs. During this time, the male performs round in order to identify any danger. A few days before hatching, the female abandons her laying because, not having eaten for several weeks, her ophiophagous instinct would encourage her to devour its young.

The king cobra’s only predator

The king cobra knows only one predator: the mongoose which mainly attacks the eggs or the young. The small carnivorous mammal leaps and bites the reptile at the neck and to the jaw. Able to dodge the snake’s retorts, she ends up exhausting him and taking advantage of his weakness. The main threat to the elapid remains the destruction of its natural habitat (deforestation, transformation into cultivated land). The animal is also a victim of local populations who eliminate it for fear of being bitten. The poaching is also practiced for its skin, its use in traditional Chinese medicine and shows. The king cobra is a species classified in category vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) throughout its range. The lifespan of the reptile is 15 to 20 years wild.