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India Wildlife Tour » Indian Wildlife » Cobra in India
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Cobra in India



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Facts
Class: Reptiles
Diet: Small mammals, reptiles, amphibians
Size: Body:1.8 - 2.2 m (6 - 7 1/4 ft)
Scientific Name: Naja naja
Habitat: Rainforest, Rice fields, Cultivated land
Range: India, Central Asia, Southeast Asia

CobraAbout Cobra in India
The Indian Cobra is known around the world as highly venomous snake that feeds on rodents, lizards, and frogs. As well as biting, the Indian cobra can attack or defend itself from a distance by "spitting" venom, which, if it enters the opponent's eyes, causes severe pain and damage. The snake actually forces the venom through its fangs, by exerting muscular pressure on the venom glands, so that it sprays out in twin jets for 2 m (6 1/2 ft) or more.

Behaviour of Indian Cobra
When threatened, the Indian Cobra will assume its characteristic posture. It will raise the front one-third of its body and elongate its long, flexible neck ribs and loose skin to form its distinctive hood, on which are resembled eyes. .

Status of Cobra in India
Although the Indian Cobra is not an endangered species, it has recently been hunted for its distinctive hood markings in the production of handbags. It is listed under the treaty because it closely resembles other species that are threatened and in need of protection.

Physical Characteristics of Indian Cobra
The Indian Cobra's most known characteristic features are the wide black band on the underside of the neck, and the hood marking design which shows half-rings on either side of the hood. It is a smooth-scaled snake with black eyes, a wide neck and head, and a medium-sized body. Its colouring varies from black, to dark brown, to a creamy white. The body is usually covered with a spectacled white or yellow pattern, which sometimes forms ragged bands. The Indian cobra may grow from 1.8m to 2.2m.

Those Cobras which have the single ring on the hood are found in Assam and Eastern India and spit venom like the Ringhals Cobra of South Africa which can eject a spray for a distance of more than two meters and cause severe eye pain, sometimes blindness. Keepers who attend this particular variety of Cobra sensibly wear goggles.

Most Poisonous - The King Cobra or Hamadryad
The King Cobra or Hamadryad, is the largest of all poisonous snakes. This sometimes 5 meter long, lethal creature is entirely a snake eater. It enjoys Pythons, other Cobras, and even its own species. The King is aggressive, unpredictable, and can strike without provocation. It is most intelligent. When erect it can stand up to 2 meters in height. In certain fertility rites in Burma, a woman desirous of offspring is required not only to approach the King Cobra but to plant a kiss on its mouth. If she is successful in doing so she will bear many children; if she fails, obviously none.

Natural History
The Indian cobra feeds on rodents, lizards and frogs. It bites quickly, and then waits while its venom damages the nervous system of the prey, paralyzing and often killing it. Like all snakes, N. naja swallows its prey whole. This species sometimes enters buildings in search of rodent prey. In its characteristic threat posture, the Indian cobra raises the front one-third of its body and spreads out its long, flexible neck ribs and loose skin to form a disklike hood, on the back of which there are markings resembling eyes.

Indian cobras pay more attention to their eggs than is usual in snakes. The 8 to 45 eggs (usually 12 to 20) are laid in a hollow tree, a termite mound or earth into which the snakes tunnel. The female guards the clutch throughout the incubation period, leaving them only for a short time each day to feed.

Economic Importance for Humans
Positive
The Indian Cobra eats rats and mice that carry disease and eat human food. Also, cobra venom is a potential source of medicines, including anti-cancer drugs and pain-killers.

Negative
This species is highly venomous, and its bite can be lethal. Because it hunts rodents that live around people, it is often encountered by accident, and many people die each year from N. naja bites.

CobraThe Festival of the Serpents
Nagapanchami or the Serpent Festival occurs in India generally in August after the monsoon rains. It is then that the full impact of Cobra power is manifest. Throughout the country Cobras are either brought into the villages and fed, or effigies of the snake are anointed and worshipped. Rarely has it ever been recorded that a fatality has occurred from snakebite during this occasion; the Cobras appear to sense they are being revered.

Although there may be variations in the date and in the local traditions and modes of observance, Nagapanchami is celebrated according to ancient rites. The festival continues to testify to the feelings of awe and veneration which the Cobra evokes in the minds of the population since the earliest times remembered. The Cobra is a graceful animal and appears always to carry an air of dignity and nobility. The physical charisma with which it is endowed is without doubt also one of the reasons why it, among all snakes, was chosen by the Nagas to be their totem.

Snake Charming
Snake charming is fascinating and at times mystifying. The eyes of the Cobra are hauntingly black and hypnotic; the snake is beautiful to watch when it is being worked by a skilled charmer. The hood is then spread and the markings apparent. The colours of the hood merge from black to brown to beige and, when framed against the sunlight, it appears almost translucent. No visit to India is complete without experiencing it.

But the true essence of the art is not observed by the tourist. There are initiates of the Shiva cult who handle Cobras without any danger of being bitten. The ‘Commercial’ snakes, generally the Spectacled Cobra, have either had their fangs extracted or the poison sacs removed. In general their lifespan is shortened due to mouth rot. The performance, nevertheless, is spectacular and colourful.

Geographic Range
Palearctic, Oriental: Pakistan, India (throughout most of the country),

Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, possibly E. Afghanistan.

Cobra in India
In India, the king Cobra is found in the National Parks and Reserves of -
» Corbett National Park
» Manas Wildlife Sanctuary
» Namdapha National Park
» Sunderbans National Park
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