Tag Archives: dangerous snakes

King Cobra – Largest Venomous Snake in World

Large Thailand King Cobra head
Ophiophagus hannah. Venomous and potentially deadly. Grows almost to 6 meters. Eats other snakes primarily. If bitten, may die within 10-20 minutes.

Ophiophagus hannah
(Thailand King Cobra)

Thais say: Thai language sounds like Ngoo how chang, or ngoo chong ahng. There are many names for this snake.

Length: Max length about 5.8 meters. The presenter at the Saovabha Snake Farm in Bangkok said the largest king was caught in Nakhon si Thammarat in Thailand’s south, near Surat Thani province.

Range: All over Thailand and most of Southeast Asia.

Notes: I’ve seen a few king cobras in the wild. One I saw in a park in Krabi – just the tail as it crossed the road behind me. I’m guessing it was a 8 meter King. I know it is probably impossible, but I’m not joking. The tail was absolutely massive, long and thicker by nearly double that of other 5-meter kings I’ve seen many of. This was quite possibly the biggest King Cobra in the world.

Another king I saw on the island of Penang, in Malaysia. I was coming  down a very steep hill and I saw this 3-4 meter king cruising through the dense underbrush. It was absolutely awesome to see it there when there were so many people climbing the hill (dozens).

Another time I saw a king about 120 meters in elevation up a limestone mountain in Krabi province. This one rested on the steps of a popular temple – Wat Tham Seua and I had to move it away so people could come down the steps. A large 4 meter king that was very fast! Note to self – don’t try to move a king that is higher than you are (it was on steps up ahead of me and was very fast to come down to attempt to strike at me because it had the height advantage and probably felt fearless.

Kings are all over Thailand and can be found anywhere near houses, or really – anywhere. But they are not found often. They are tremendously strong and smart animals. Please give the snake a large space and do not poke it with a stick. They are very fast moving. Juvenile king cobras can also kill you. Their venom is every bit as toxic as adults.

Habitat: Like many types of habitat. Dense forest near water and open grasslands.  Love bamboo thickets for a nest. Ideal cover is a web of small bamboo growing about a meter high with soft bamboo leaves underneath. The King I found last night was up a limestone mountain around 100 meters elevation. In Thailand they are often found wherever rat snakes might be found because they seem to prefer them.

Kings seem to prefer mountains. The other two I found were also at some elevation (200 m and around 500 meters).

King cobras are usually terrestrial, but have been found many times in trees.

Active Time? The snake is mainly diurnal – found active during the daytime, but can also be active also at night.

Food: King cobras eat other smaller snakes primarily, but also will eat monitor lizards. Occasionally they’ll eat other king cobras, pythons, lizards, birds, rodents. I saw a 5 meter long king attempting to eat a 2.5 meter reticulated python. The King appeared intimidated by the strength of the python – it’s no pushover. Here is a photo of a 3 meter king eating a 2 meter red tailed racer snake.

King Cobra Eats Red Tailed Racer Snake - Thailand

Defensive Behavior: Lifts its head off the ground sometimes by as much as 4-5 feet, and flattens out the neck. The hood of a King cobra doesn’t flare as wide… but, a big King will scare you much more because they can be 5 times as long as the monocled or other cobras! These snakes are not usually that afraid of people, and move slowly to ‘escape’ if they move away at all. Last night I moved a 4 meter king off some steps at a local temple so people could pass. It was not in ANY hurry to get away, and it came at me a couple of times. Impressive snakes, and be very afraid… I know a man personally, his brother was bitten on the chest and died in less than 10 minutes on the way to hospital.

Venom Toxicity: Very toxic, but monocled cobras (Naja kaouthia) and kraits (genus Bungarus) are more potent on the LD50 scale. The power of the King is in the volume of venom it can inject in one bite – maximum around 7ml! Kings can kill elephants with a bite.

Antivenom: There is a specific antivenin for the king cobras, but if the hospital you are at does not have it there is an alternative. Tiger snake antivenin can also work well.

Offspring: Lay eggs which they stay with in the nest until ready to hatch. When the eggs start to hatch the mother leaves because it eats other snakes primarily – and would likely eat the young. The young are fast, and deadly from the time they hatch. Juvenile king cobras from Thailand have yellow bands across their black bodies and heads. They look radically different from adult king cobra snakes. There is a danger of mistaking them for mangrove cat snakes (Boiga melanota).

Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Ophiophagus
Species: O. hannah

Three King Cobras in Thailand
Notice the light band across the back of the mid-body (right) ? Until the King flares his hood you can tell it’s a king by those bands. In addition, the head is very distinctive, and large compared to any other snake except a Python.

The kings in these photos are all beat up from bashing their faces against the cages at a snake show in Thailand. In the wild they are so beautiful… majestic… amazing snakes. I was so glad to see my first one  in the wild last night. Even better to interact with it… Gotta love Thailand!

Video of a King Cobra breathing – you can hear it:

Update 3/13/2015 – I’ve seen a number of king cobras in the wild now over the years. Four of them have been hundreds of meters high on mountains. Many snake enthusiasts want to come to Thailand to see king cobras, and I have to tell them… the chance of seeing one is very little. I’ve lived in Thailand for ten years and I’ve seen only a handful, and I’m in the rainforest often. Your best bet is to come to the country and stay for a couple of months. Stay at PhanomBenchaMountainResort.com in a bungalow, and hike during the days around there. That’s my best advice.

Thais are a bit crazy about cobras – it is the most easily recognized snakes, and though I have met few people that can identify other snakes, most know what a cobra looks like. They even sell amulet necklaces of cobras!

Malayan Krait – Blue Krait – Highly Toxic Venom

White and black Malaysian banded krait. Very dangerous. Very toxic venom to humans.
Bungarus candidus. Malayan Blue Krait, Malayan Krait. Highly toxic venom. White/black or Yellow/black. Scroll down for 1 more photo.

Note: About 50% of all bites from this krait results in human death – even with the administration of anti-venin. Death is the usual result if no treatment is given. The closely related Bungarus multicinctus is ranked 3rd in the world for toxicity of venom (terrestrial snakes). Do be careful.

Bungarus candidus (Malayan Krait or Blue Krait)

Thais say: Ngoo tap saming kla, or ngoo kan plong

Length: Max length about 1.6 meters in Thailand.

Range: All over Thailand and much of southeast Asia.

Notes: I’ve seen these dead on the side of the road near rubber plantations. Their head is not nearly as large as the yellow/black banded krait. Be careful!

Habitat: Like flat country. Not found higher than 1200 m vertically often. Like to be close to water. Likes rice fields and rice dams. Likes to invade rat holes and use as a nest.

Active Time? The snake is mainly active at night and are not fond of the sunshine. They are shy and attempt to cover their head with their tales.

Food: Other snakes – primarily, but also lizards, mice, frogs and other small animals.

Defensive Behavior: Not usually very aggressive. Shy. They don’t bite unless provoked. Stepping too close to one might get you bit.

Venom Toxicity: Very toxic – even many times more so than the Naja kaouthia (cobras). Bungarus krait venom is neuro-toxic and attacks the human nervous system, shutting it down. Coma, brain death, and suffocation due to paralysis of the muscles necessary to breathe (diaphragm) are frequent causes of death. Death results usually 12-24 hours after a bite that is not treated. Little or no pain is usually felt at the bite location. The black/white kraits in Thailand are more toxic to humans than are the yellow/black kraits. The yellow-black kraits (Bungarus fasciatus) can still kill you easily.

Here’s a short overview of what happened to one victim of a bite by Bungarus candidus (black-white striped krait):

A patient bitten by Bungarus candidus (Malayan krait) developed nausea, vomiting, weakness, and myalgia 30 minutes after being bitten. One hour later, ptosis and occulomotor palsies as well as tightness of his chest were noted. Respiratory failure requiring mechanical respiration appeared 8 hours after the bite and lasted for nearly 96 hours. The two bite sites were virtually painless and resulted in slight transient erythema and edema. No specific antivenin was available, and treatment consisted of respiratory support and management of aspiration pneumonitis. Recovery was complete. (Department of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University Hospital and the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute of the Thai Red Cross Society, Bangkok, Thailand)

Handling: The banded and Malayan blue kraits are not known to bite during the daytime. However, at night time they bite rather easily, as evidenced by the numerous krait bites that occur at night to people usually laying down to sleep on the floor. Handholding the kraits for any reason seems rather absurd to me, yet snake-handlers across the globe do it regularly. The krait venom is so toxic, it’s just not worth the risk – however small.

Anti-venin: There is a specific krait antivenin that is given for krait bites. If you don’t have access to that antivenin you can ask the hospital if they have Tiger Snake antivenin – which can be used as a substitute for krait antivenin and works quite well.

Offspring: Lays 4-10 eggs. Juveniles are 30 cm long at birth. Hatch in June-July.

Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Bungarus
Species: candidus

(Classified as Bungaris candidus)

Exceptionally venomous neurotoxic venomous snake in Thailand.
Notice the thickness of the bands on this deadly Krait... Wolf snakes have similar coloring (stripes) but thinner bands. Wolf Snakes are harmless.