By Prerna Singh Bindra
BEST SEEN AT: Agumbe, Karnataka (entire southern Western Ghats from Kanyakumari to Goa); Bhitarkanika, Orissa; the Andamans
STATUS: Schedule II
GOOD TO KNOW: It is the only snake in the world that builds a nest to lay its eggs — but on the ground
THE KING cobra has a deadly repute and not without reason. While their venom is not the most potent , the sheer amount they deliver in a single bite can kill 20 people and as some stories have it even an elephant! Despite its fearsome repute, the king cobra is a shy and reclusive animal, avoiding confrontation with man – though it turns aggressive when cornered. The king is the largest venomous snake in the world. It’s comfortable in trees, land and in water and may vary in colour across its range. Contrary to its deadly image, the female makes for a caring parent, guarding her eggs for at least part of the two to three months it takes to hatch, rarely moving even to eat. Their diet chiefly comprises of other snakes — which is what has earned it its nomenclature — Ophiophagus means ‘snake-eating.’ The king is a top predator in its habitat, and its presence is an indicator of a healthy forest – the destruction of which continues to be its most worrying threat. Persecution is the other; because of the fear they instil, these snakes are usually killed on sight and their nests destroyed.