King Cobra:Ophiophagus hannah

The king cobra is the largest venomous snake in the world. It posesses very dangerous venom, which can kill a man, or even an elephant.

King cobras are usually about four metres long, but may grow to six metres. While this is larger than every other venomous snakes, some boas and pythons may grow both longer and heavier. The king cobra is quite slender, and does not have a pronounced head like many vipers. The king cobra is capable of spreading a hood when it wants to intimidate a threat. This is achieved by using muscles to flatten the position of ribs in the neck of the cobra. There are large false eyes on the back of the hood. Adults are usually an olive colour, but may appear closer towards yellow, brown or black. The young are darker, but have light bands on their backs.

The king cobra has a large range, encompassing India, South-East Asia and many of the large islands in the vicinity. They genrally live in forests or grassland, and so are not encountered by humans all that frequently. Occasionaly that may reside in agricultural areas, which is where most encounters occur. Thankfully these snakes are not especially agressive.

King cobras posess fixed fangs that may be half an inch in length. Through these they can deliver a large volume of their venom during a bite. This venom kills most small animals, such as the snakes and lizards that the king cobra eats very quickly. Although cases of human envenomation are rare, death is very likely to occur even if all appropirate safety measures are taken. The effect of the venom is primarily neurological. It causes a loss of coordination, convulsions or paralysis and respiratory failure. The venom also inhibits clotting, and may cause destruction of tissue local to the bite.

Bites from the king cobra are treated with the same anti-venom used to treat tiger snake bites. This should be delivered intravenously. Other drugs are used to treat various symptoms as they occur. Survival is likely only if the snake has delivered only a small amount of venom. Survivors may be left with permanent kidney damage. Unfortunately most cases end in swift death for the victim.

King cobras are usually solitary, and come together only to mate. After this the female may lay up to 50 eggs, which she will guard for until they hatch, after around two months. During this period she is likely to be more agressive than usual, and may bite without apparent provocation.

Kingdom: Anamalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Elapidae

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