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King Cobra

Scientific Name: Ophiophagus hannah


King cobras are the largest of all venomous snakes, and potentially some of the most deadly. Capable of attaining lengths of up to 19 feet, and possessing powerful neurotoxic venom, they are formidable predators and have even been known to kill elephants. Fortunately, king cobras are usually non-aggressive unless threatened. Often found close to human habitations, they are at times adopted as village pets and can even be handled by children with impunity.

Fast and agile, king cobras are daylight hunters of other reptiles, mostly snakes. Once they spot their prey, they chase it down, subdue it, and often swallow it alive before their powerful venom has a chance to take effect.

King cobras are the only snakes known to construct nests. Female kings will build nests of bamboo leaves and deposit as many as 65 eggs within. They then guard the nests, possibly with their mates, until the eggs hatch around 70 days later. Few predators indeed will venture to make a meal of king cobra eggs!

Riverbanks currently has a pair of king cobras, the longest of which is 14 feet long. They are very curious and aware of their surroundings and often considered by herpetologists to be relatively intelligent. In reality, little is known about the biology of this species.


King cobras have a wide range extending from India to the Philippines and from southern China to Malaysia. Within this range, they occupy moist tropical forests, mangrove swamps and bamboo thickets.

Status in the Wild

Very little is known about the status of wild populations of king cobras, but they are generally considered to be uncommon throughout much of their range and to have a naturally low population density. The general scarcity of information regarding the status and ecology of king cobras indicates a need for basic field studies of this remarkable species of snake.