I was hoping this year was going to be THE YEAR I found a king cobra hatchling – at least one under a meter. Alex Gillard made it happen for me, I didn’t get to find it, but we were at the same place and I’d actually just passed the place he found the little king – about 30 minutes before. Good enough for me, I just wanted to see one in the wild and get some photos and videos.
This has been my target species for about ten years now. I’ve found some adults, and one adult even found me, but I have never seen a king cobra in the wild less than three meters in length.
Juvenile king cobras are very difficult to find. People say they’re ‘smart’ – and yeah, I guess they are. I’ve never even heard of someone finding a hatchling king in the wild. One time a doctor from Malaysia sent me a photo of a tiny hatchling outside his clinic – in the middle of the day. It had probably just hatched.
Certainly, nobody goes looking for and finds king neonates.
Until Alex found one.
So, anyway. My life is complete. Enjoy the photos of this stunning little one-month old king cobra found in Krabi. I don’t know how many times I’ve been herping over the last ten years, certainly well over 1,000 times. And still, I’ve never found one myself!
KING COBRA (Ophiophagus hannah – Thailand King Cobra)
In Greek, ‘snake eater.’ Sometimes called ‘Hamadryad.’ Discovered and described by Danish naturalist, Theodore Edward Cantor in 1836. The species name, hannah reflects the snake’s arboreal habits, from Greek mythology it refers to tree dwelling nymphs of the same name.
Ophiophagus hannah occupies its own genus, Ophiophagus. This is different from other cobras in the Naja genus which have multiple species within the genus. There has been talk about breaking up the genus into a number of species, as differences exist in coloration, scalation, and in comparison, king cobras can be easily distinguished by the shape and size of the neck hood. Kings have a longer, thinner hood. Other cobras grow to maximum length around two meters in length – much smaller than king cobras. The king cobra has chevrons lighter in color than the body color, on the neck and body that may be very pronounced, as in kings from China, or muted, as we see on melanistic king cobras here in Southern Thailand. A technical difference between Ophiophagus hannah and all other cobras is the existence of a pair of scales on the top and rear of the head called, ‘occipital scales.’ They are located adjacent to each other behind the usual 9-scale arrangement typical of colubrids and elapids.
Image from Creative Commons – Wikipedia. Link here.
In Thai language, it sounds like Ngoo how chang (literally “snake cobra elephant”, or ngoo chong ahng. There are many names for this snake.
AVERAGE AND MAXIMUM LENGTH
Max length about 5.85 meters. The presenter at the Queen Saovabha Memorial Snake Institute in Bangkok said the largest king was caught in Nakhon Si Thammarat in Thailand’s south, near Surat Thani province and it was 19 feet 2 inches in length.
All over Thailand and most of Southeast Asia.
I’ve seen a few king cobras (hamadryad) 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 an eight meter long snake. I know it is probably impossible, but I’m not joking. The tail was absolutely massive, longer 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 close by.
Another time I saw a king about one-hundred twenty 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 four-meter long 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.
Recently Tom Charlton and I found a 3-meter king cobra in Krabi and got some great shots and video of it. Facebook photo of it here.
Kings are all over Thailand and can be found near houses, or really – just about 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. One study done by the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute in Bangkok showed that king venom is actually more toxic the younger the snake is.
KING COBRA HABITAT
Kings 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.
Another interesting bit of information is that the king cobra is said to be able to see as far as 100 meters during daylight.
The snake is mainly diurnal – found active during the daytime, but can also be active also at night.
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.
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 not to be taken lightly. I know a man personally, his brother was bitten on the upper arm/shoulder and died in less than 10 minutes on the way to hospital.
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 (and have) killed elephants with a good bite. More information on venom constituents and treatment for king cobra snakebite here.
O. HANNAH ANTIVENOM
There is a specific antivenin for the king cobras manufactured by the Red Cross Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute in Bangkok, Thailand and available online for about $110 (May, 2015) for enough antivenin to counteract .8ml of king cobra venom. If the hospital you’re in does not have it in stock and cannot order it quickly from another nearby source, there is an alternative. Tiger snake antivenin can also work well. Online: Snake-Antivenin.com (no affiliation).
Ophiophagus hannah is the only snake known in the world that creates a nest (usually of bamboo and other leaves). This snake lays eggs which they stay with in the nest until ready to hatch. When the eggs begin hatching, the female king 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 dendrophila).
Young king cobras spend their early months, and possibly years in the trees. However, recently (Spring 2016) I have found two hatchling king cobras dead on the road in Krabi. Did they attempt to cross the road immediately after hatching while in search of a proper tree to climb? Not sure. Would love to find out. If you have any insight – do let me know!
From Luke Yeomans: “A female usually deposits 20 to 40 eggs into the mound, which acts as an incubator. She stays with the eggs and guards the mound tenaciously, rearing up into a threat display if any large animal gets too close, for roughly 60 to 90 days. Inside the mound, the eggs are incubated at a steady 28 °C (82 °F). When the eggs start to hatch, instinct causes the female to leave the nest and find prey to eat so she does not eat her young. The baby king cobras, with an average length of 45 to 55 cm (18 to 22 in), have venom which is as potent as that of the adults. They may be brightly marked, but these colours often fade as they mature. They are alert and nervous, being highly aggressive if disturbed.”
The IUCN Red List publishes information about the conservation status of reptiles across the globe. Here is what they had to say about King Cobras:
Ophiophagus hannah has been assessed as Vulnerable. This species has a wide distribution range, however, it is not common in any area in which it occurs (with the apparent exception of Thailand, and there only in forested areas), is very rare in much of its range, and has experienced local population declines of over 80% over 10 years in parts of its range. Pressure on this species from both habitat loss and exploitation are high throughout this snake’s range, and while no quantitative population data is available, it can be conservatively estimated that the population size has declined globally by at least 30% over an estimated three-generation period of 15-18 years. More detailed population monitoring in the more poorly-known parts of this snake’s range may reveal that this is a conservative estimate.
I mentioned earlier having seen many dozens of king cobras run through the snake show here in our local area. That is just one King Cobra Show out of perhaps a dozen in the country. If every show caught and disposed of 50 king cobras annually, that’s 600 adult king cobras yearly that are being depleted from the forests just here in Thailand. Kings mate once per year and their eggs are highly vulnerable to predators like monitors, other snakes, rats, and weather phenomena like high humidity and monsoon rains. Kings lay eggs just before the rains start.
My best guess is that king cobras are disappearing from the wild at a frightening rate. We only mentioned snake shows here, but what about all the king cobras that are found and killed across southeast Asia for food, or out of fear? There must be hundreds more, perhaps thousands per year more that are killed by people that come across them.
I hope the IUCN Red List updates their listing for Ophiophagus hannah and assigns a label more serious than “Vulnerable.” Something drastic is needed to save the country of Thailand’s wild king cobras before they disappear like they did in Penang, Malaysia.
Species: O. hannah
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. Even better to interact with it. Gotta love Thailand!
This page is focused on King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) snakes because their demise is imminent here in Thailand, and already in most countries they are not found in near the numbers they once were. On the island of Penang in Malaysia, it is said that kings can only be found very occasionally on the mountain. They used to be common. I was lucky enough to see one there on a very steep section of the hill while descending. It was three to four meters long and much thicker than my forearm. It was in the underbrush, moving slowly, perhaps thinking it was unobserved. That was two years ago, and maybe that snake has been a meal for someone by now. It’s entirely possible.
In Thailand I’ve watched just one snake show take over fifty king cobras each year out of the wild. They ‘rescue’ them from homes, yards, businesses, gardens, and farms. The kings spend a couple weeks or months rubbing their faces raw and bleeding against the fence trying desperately to escape. Some of them are put in the king cobra show – where they are teased mercilessly three to ten times each day for tourists that are interested in seeing snakes, but don’t really understand the state of the kings that are held there.
I cannot imagine that king cobras as a species have more than another few years of existence in Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Laos, Singapore, and Taiwan. The IUCN Red List site lists king cobras as ‘Vulnerable.” Kings are being collected and sold in great numbers to buyers in Bangkok who cook them up as a meal, or send them on to China for the same purpose.
It wasn’t long ago that the Queen Saovabha Snake Farm – “The Red Cross Snake Farm” in Bangkok was ‘broken into’ and something like seventy king cobras were ‘stolen.’ Hmm, wonder where they went. Seventy king cobras had to fetch a nice price, I’d think. Tens of thousands of US Dollars – easy. Not accusing, it’s just a very sad state of reality for these and other snakes poached for their skin, blood, bile ducts, tongues, and meat.
So this page will be a collection of all the best information I can source about my favorite species of snake, King Cobra – Ophiophagus hannah. If you have some article, book, documentary, photo, video, or other bit of information you’d like to see listed here, just write via the contact form at this link. It is found under the HOME menu at the top of all pages.
Video of a King Cobra breathing – Listen – You Can Hear It:
Update 7/20/2016 – 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 slight. 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. Your chance at seeing a king cobra is not high – you would probably need weeks of walking around during the day to see one. It’s all luck!
Thais are a bit crazy about cobras – it is the most easily recognized snake, and though I have met few people that can identify other snakes, most know what a cobra looks like. There are even amulet necklaces of cobras!
Also known as mangrove viper, shore pit viper, Gray’s pit viper, purple-spotted pit viper, and shore pit viper. In past (2004-2011) was called Cryptelytrops purpureomaculatus.
Thais Say: Ngoo pang ka
Length: Males grow to about 60 cm and females to 90 cm on average.
Habitat: Usually near water and very wet areas like mangroves along the ocean or brackish water. However, recently one was found on a sidewalk by a bungalow on the island of Koh Phi Phi in Krabi province, Thailand. They like stream banks with good cover – low lying plants that they can hide under. They also may like hilly habitat and have been found as high as 2,000 meters elevation in bamboo jungles. These snakes are found in high numbers on islands around Thailand. I have found this species in some abundance along the shore in mangroves in Krabi province.
Behavior: Diurnal and arboreal. These snakes are very easily agitated, and once they get going they are slow to calm down. Their strikes are very fast, but have a short reach. These are known by snake handlers to have a “bad temper.”
These Thailand pit vipers can have many color variations. They are usually like the photo above – greyish with a bit of purple in the coloring. Some are very purple. We’ve also seen a brownish toned mangrove pit viper with some yellow highlights. Now for our top photo we have a greenish toned viper. Obviously – color is highly variable in this species. Tom Charlton found black variations on Langkawi Island in Malaysia.
Venom toxicity: Venomous and very toxic to humans. Though people have died as a result of bites from this snake, this is not usually the case. Symptoms – pain, severe swelling, bruising, blistering, and necrosis are more likely.
Here (it isn’t live any longer) is a study of treating a bite by this snake with T. albolabris antivenom from the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute with some success.
Treatment: Antivenin is indicated.
Antivenom Name – Green Pit Viper Antivenin (Code – SAsTRC01)
Manufacturer: Thai Red Cross Society
Phone: +66-2-252-0161, 0162, 0163, 0164
Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute
1871 Rama IV Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330 Thailand
Mangrove Pit Viper Scientific Classification
Species: T. purpureomaculatus
Classified as – Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus by Gray in year 1832.
Mangrove pit viper photo courtesy of, and full copyright by – Richard Richert. Thanks Richard!
Size – Average length around 70 cm. Maximum about 120 centimeters. The young are very thin – like a pencil. The adults are thick – like a forearm or even a human leg.
Description – Triangular head distinct from neck. Color varies quite a bit. Brown with incomplete orange bands on the dorsum and laterals, or brown with beige bands, or black with grey bands. Many variations. Sometimes the snake appears quite orange.
Range – All over Thailand and almost always beside or in water: Pools, streams, rivers, puddles, lakes. They are not found on hills or mountains.
Food – Prey includes fish, frogs, and tadpoles primarily.
Behavior – The water snake Homalopsis buccata lives in fresh and salty mixed with fresh – brackish water. These snakes live in and near any body of water – natural or man-made. Puff-Faced Watersnakes are found almost always in the water or on the bank. Small holes in the bank are often home for these snakes. This snake is primarily active at night, but I have found a few during the daytime.
Young – Born alive without eggs. Coloration – orange and black bands.
Danger – I’ve found dozens of these snakes and they are typically strong and active biters. They can strike like a viper – backward and vertically. I’ve been bitten in the finger by a 70 cm. long snake when I was 5 inches away from the head, coming from behind to grab the neck. With the bright headlamp in his eyes, I don’t know how he could have possibly seen my hand coming. It wasn’t a glancing strike, he bit and held on for a couple minutes. I have heard others say these snakes don’t tend to bite. Maybe they are talking about in their experiences in the pet-trade.
Range – Bangladesh; Myanmar, Cambodia; Thailand; Vietnam; Indonesia; Laos; Malaysia; Singapore; India; Nepal; Pulau Bangka
Homalopsis buccata – Puff-faced Water Snake
Puff-faced Water Snake Scientific classification
Species: H. buccata
Binomial name Homalopsis buccata
Classification by Linnaeus in 1758
If you’re looking for Thailand Sea Snake Info Click Here.
Here is a whip snake that was a bit of a mystery for a while, it was finally identified by an American expat snake researcher in Bangkok – Michael Cota.
This snake was found in Krabi province, and far north of where other instances of this snake have been found in Thailand. There were a couple found in the southernmost provinces – near Narathiwat – near the Malaysian border.
Dryophiops rubescens(Keel-bellied Whip Snake)
Also known as: Red Whip Snake, Brown Whip Snake, Keel bellied whip snake, keel bellied vine snake.
Length: As long as 1 meter (3+ feet)
Description: The head of this snake is more brown than any other part of the body. Keep in mind there are red and brown varieties. The head is elongated and has a ridge between the eye and snout. Pupils are set horizontally. The body of the snake is slender – ideal for climbing through vines and light growth. The snake is measured in grams, not exceeding 300 grams for the largest of them. Scales on top of the body are smooth. The underside scales are keeled and are excellent for climbing. The whip snake I caught yesterday was able to climb up a smooth plastic water jug and grip it tightly. I was quite surprised. The head is brown, the neck and first half of the body is silver / grey and mottled with some black and dark grey. The belly is pale yellow under the head and neck, and toward the tail gets a coloration very similar to the top – heavily mottled and darker brown moving posteriorly. These snakes are more thin than my smallest finger.
Range: Literature has this snake occurring only in Thailand’s deep south, but, this is the second instance of one found in Krabi province – so, obviously the range includes this province as well.
Habitat: Trees and ground. I found both on the ground. They are excellent climbers and love vines and light brush. Recently we found one hanging out in the curve of a guardrail on a mountain in Krabi.
Active Time? Diurnal, but possibly also nocturnal. Both of mine were found during daylight hours.
Food: Small geckos and frogs primarily.
Defensive Behavior: Accurate strikers! One of the ones we’ve had didn’t bite at all. The other tagged my finger striking quickly and very accurately. I bled slightly. No ill effects were noted.
Venom Toxicity: Weak for humans. Effective for geckos, lizards and frogs. These are rear-fanged colubrids and a prolonged bite could cause swelling and pain at the bite site.
Offspring: Nothing known about this area.
Notes: These are really beautiful snakes resembling the Ahaetulla prasina in body morphology and Gunther’s Whip Snake. Studied closely you’d be amazed at the pattern in the body of the snake. Both of ours were brown whip snakes (we are guessing – there are few photos in the lit), there are also red-colored species of this snake.
Scientific classification: Dryophiops rubescens
Species: D. rubescens
(Classified by Grey, in the year 1835.)
Video – Brown Whip Snake from Southern Thailand:
Video of Another Keeled Whip Snake from Krabi Province in Thailand:
The Plumbeous Water Snake (AKA: Rice Paddy Snake) is a venomous snake, though it is not dangerous to humans.
(Page Updated: 6 September 2016)
Enhydris plumbea (Plumbeous Water Snake, and Rice Paddy Snake
Thais say: (ngoo bping)
Length: average length for these snakes is about 50cm (19 inches)
Range: The plumbeous water snake is found all over Thailand as well as nearly all of southeast Asia.
Habitat: Near or in water. Lakes, streams, rivers, puddles, marshes, any where water is.
Active Time? Diurnal – active in daylight mostly.
Food: Food is generally fish and frogs, though other opportunistic eating may take place.
Defensive Behavior: Typical s-shaped striking position. Not very mobile on land.
Venom Toxicity: Venomous. Not toxic enough venom to affect humans severely. No known cases of death due to bite from this species in the herpetological literature.
Notes: As you might have guessed, these snakes are most commonly found in the vast rice fields of Thailand. These are common snakes, we have found two of them recently – one in a small pond with many frogs. One at a resort with a stream and some shallow pools of water.
Length: average snakes are up to 50-90 cm as adults.
Range: Central and southern Thailand only
Habitat: Tentacled water snakes are found in lakes, rice fields, streams, and other shallow water that is either moving or stagnant – especially that which is murky. It is found in all three types of water environments including salt, fresh, and brackish (combined) water. This snake waits patiently on the bottom and waits for something to wander by – whereupon it seizes it in it’s mouth. Amazingly the tentacled snake can stay underwater for 30 minutes on a breath.
During the dry season in Thailand – from January to April, the Erepton tentaculatus buries it’s body in mud to stay wet and cool, with it’s head out of the moud – of course. They do need oxygen to survive.
Active Time? When night is falling it is known to be more active.
Food: Fish. To lure the prey closer to provide the opportunity for a strike these tentacled snakes use their tentacles as lures – like tiny worms. When the fish come closer they strike. When striking their eyes are retracted and they aim for where the fish will be, not where it is. This is an amazing feat. In actuality the snake is tricking the fish with a movement of it’s body – into fleeing. But, it knows exactly where it will go when it flees. A very unique snake.
Defensive Behavior: Bites when provoked, but not with normal handling.
Venom Toxicity: Weak venom that is not known to affect humans much. Not deadly. These are not biters, per se, and even when handled they are not known to bite much. The fangs are small, in the rear of the mouth, and the fangs are only partially grooved, not made for injecting large amounts of toxic venom. Their venom works well on fish they eat.
Offspring: Each year this water snake gives birth to a half to a dozen live young which are between 20 and 40 cm in length and about a pencil’s diameter in girth.
Notes: Because it spends it’s life buried in mud, or under the water looking for prey it is a rather difficult snake to catch. Recently on a herping trip in southern Thailand I believe a group of us saw one, but, when we reached in with the tongs to attempt to grab the snake, it had already darted.
These snakes are either lightly striped or have blotches. Their color is either hues of grey or brown.
Tentacled Water Snake Scientific Classification
Species: E. tentaculatum
Classified as: Erpeton tentaculatum
Classified by, Lacepede in year, 1800.
If you’re looking for Thailand Sea Snake Info Click Here.
Note: About 50% of all bites from this krait results in human death – even with the administration of antivenin (antivenom). 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 based on some LD-50 data (terrestrial snakes). Do be careful.
[Last updated: 4 April 2018]
Bungarus candidus (Malayan Krait or Blue Krait)
Thais say: Ngoo tap saming kla, or ngoo kan plong
Length: Max length about 1.6 meters.
Range: All over Thailand and much of Southeast Asia.
Notes: I’ve caught scores of these snakes since 2006 in Thailand. They are quite distinctive from other black and white banded snakes when adult, but when hatchling or juvenile, the differences are almost negligible. Do be very cautious to not hand-hold any black and white banded snake in Thailand. The risk is too great. The head of the Blue Krait is not nearly as large as the yellow and black “Banded Krait” (B. fasciatus). This krait’s body doesn’t have the high vertebral ridge either. Be careful around these snakes, their venom is very potent.
Habitat: These snakes appear to favor flat country though I have found them on hills of 250 and 300 meters elevation. Not found higher than 1,200 m above sea level often. They prefer proximity to water, rice fields, and rice dams. To find a nest, this krait invades and takes over rat holes in the ground.
Active Time? The snake is mainly active at night and is not fond of the sunshine. They are shy and attempt to cover their head with their tail. I tend to find them active most consistently between 9 pm. and 11 pm.
Food: Other snakes – primarily, but also lizards, mice, frogs and other small animals.
Defensive Behavior: Not what I would consider aggressive or strongly defensive. They don’t tend to bite unless really provoked. Still, you should never hold one. I have only seen one in a dozen of these snakes attempt to bite, and it was the result of being grabbed with tongs near the head.
Venom Toxicity: Very toxic – even stronger on the LD-50 scales than Naja kaouthia (cobras). Bungarus krait venom is neurotoxic and attacks the human nervous system, shutting it down. Coma, brain death, and suffocation due to paralysis of the muscles and nerves necessary for crucial functions like the diaphragm, and or heart, are frequent causes of death. Death results usually 12-24 hours after an envenomed bite that is not treated. Little or no pain is usually felt at the bite location. After envenomation approximately 50% of bite victims will succumb to the effects of the venom, dying usually from respiration stopping when the diaphragm stops.
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. (Source: 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. That doesn’t mean they don’t, it just means they don’t do it commonly. At night these snakes bite rather easily, as evidenced by the numerous 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. After catching many of these snakes in the wild – I’ve seen them bite the snake tongs just once.
Antivenin | Antivenom: There is a specific krait antivenin that is given for Malayan 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 well.
Offspring: Lays 4-10 eggs. Juveniles are 30 cm long at birth. Hatching occurs in June-July in Thailand.
Species: B. candidus
(Classified as Bungarus candidus by Linnaeus in 1758.)
Very Recent Malayan Krait Find in Rainforest (5/19/16):
Malayan Krait Attempting to Prey Upon Sunbeam Snake (and fails!)
Venomous Snakebites and Near Misses!
More than 34 stories of venomous snakebite and very near misses from Southeast Asia’s most deadly snakes – King Cobra, Malayan Pit Viper, Monocled Cobra, Banded Krait, Malayan Krait, and more! Digital Book with over 100 pages by Vern Lovic.
The monocled cobra is one of Thailand’s most deadly snakes – with highly toxic (neurotoxic + cytotoxic) venom. One bite on your toe from one that jumps out from under your outdoor refrigerator can kill you. I heard the story direct from a woman which had this happen to her husband. Monocled Cobras are nearly everywhere across Thailand. I had a friend that found them in his kitchen often. I’ve seen them crossing the road (see video below), and there was a family of these cobras living under the office of my wife’s workplace – with many 18″ baby cobras.
I just heard about Grant Thompson, an 18-year-old man in Austin, Texas who was bitten on the wrist by a monocled cobra and died of cardiac arrest. Authorities are looking for the snake. Tips that might catch the snake 1. If cool in the mornings, the snake might be found in bushes sunning itself. These cobras prefer hot weather over 80°F. 2. They are most active during daytime, but can move at night. 3. N kaouthia will eat eggs, mice, rats, if no other snakes are to be found. They prefer snakes, but I don’t know what Grant fed his snake. It might be unable to stalk prey and feed itself and die within a month.
Thais respect (fear) this snake because many have friends or relatives that have been envenomated (bitten and venom injected) by this snake. They even make Buddhist amulets with cobra snake images.
I’ve worked with two hatchling monocled cobras, and even at 12-15 inches – they are fierce. One snake handler described monocled cobras as “spastic” – and I have to agree.
If you are bitten by any cobra – get to the hospital as fast as you can. Monocled cobra venom is on par or even more toxic than some of the Thailand kraits, and much more toxic than King Cobra venom when compared drop to drop. Even if the bite is a small one, a nick, or a scrape, get to the hospital immediately. All it takes is a drop of venom to hit your blood stream for biological chaos to ensue.
Appearance: Monocled cobras are easily identified by looking at the back of the hood – there is a monocle – or eye type shape there. They are light brown to dark grey to solid black. Most are very close to black.
Thais say: Ngoo how hom, Ngoo how mo (long o sound)
Length: Typical maximum length about 1.5 meters. Recently I saw one in a mangrove forest that was 2 meters long, a giant. They can get up to 2.2 meters – about 7.5 feet long.
Range: All over Thailand and most of Southeast Asia.
Notes: Neuro toxic venom affecting nerves, brain, and causing death very quickly without treatment. They are very fast strikers. The baby monocled cobras are every bit as deadly. Please be CAREFUL!
Recently a friend and I found a 1.5 meter long N. kaouthia on a dirt road near where we were herping. It was nearly paralyzed but gaped its mouth when touched on the head with a snake hook. The body didn’t move. We think it was just bitten by either a krait, or a King Cobra – both of which prey on this species. There was one visible bite mark on the side of the body and nothing else. I’m guessing King Cobra.
Habitat: Both flat and hilly regions. I’ve seen them on hills, but usually near people – under houses and in places rats and frogs are likely to be found. I’ve seen them most often in residential areas bordering forest, or near the ocean. In the mornings they can be in trees and bushes – trying to get some sun to warm up. They love to hide under leaves, wood, anything really. Lifespan is around 30 years.
Active Time? The snake is mainly diurnal – active by day, but I have seen a number of them still active at night. In fact, in Thailand – I’ve seen about a dozen active at night – the rest were active during daytime.
Food: Rodents, lizards, frogs, birds, eggs, other snakes.
Defensive Behavior: Lift head off ground and flatten out neck. The hood flares quite wide compared to the width of the body. When comparing the monocled cobra and the king cobra, the monocled cobras have a hood flare that is more extreme in relation to the width of their body and heads. They can hiss when they strike.
Monocled cobras are very active and ready to strike especially as the temperature climbs past 35°C (about 95°F). Do be very careful with them during this temperature range because they are very easily agitated and strike much more often.
Offspring: Lays 25-40 eggs. Young are fully prepared to envenomate as they hatch. Mating takes place after the rainy season. Eggs incubate in about 2 months. Eggs hatch between April-June. Hatchlings are between 8 to 12 inches at birth.
Monocled Cobra video – My Two Recent Baby Monocled Cobras:
Monocled Cobra Rescue at House in Krabi, Thailand:
Venomous Snakebites and Near Misses!
More than 34 stories of venomous snakebite and very near misses from Southeast Asia’s most deadly snakes – King Cobra, Malayan Pit Viper, Monocled Cobra, Banded Krait, Malayan Krait, and more! Digital Book with over 100 pages by Vern Lovic.