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The Zoo has one female king cobra. She hatched in the wild in Indonesia and arrived at the Zoo on May 30, 2003.
The Reptile House
The king cobra is the longest venomous snake in the world. They have short, hollow fangs measuring less than a half an inch. King cobras come in a variety of colors, dependent on their range. They can be light olive, black-brown or something in between. They may have bands of white, yellow or beige. Their underside is uniformly pale yellow and may have bars. The famous (or infamous) king cobra "hood" is created by extending elongated cervical ribs of the neck that spread loose skin.
King cobras are found near streams in both dense and open forest, as well as bamboo stands and agricultural areas, like tea plantations. They also inhabit mangrove swamps.
Taxonomic revision of the king cobra is pending. The king cobra is a broadly distributed species through southeast Asia. There are many island forms of this snake and possibly up to six species.
One of the Philadelphia Zoo's former king cobras holds the captive longevity record and lived to be over 26 years old.
King cobras normally breed from January to April. The female lays 20-50 eggs in a nest she constructs from sticks and leaves. The female guards the nest and after 65-80 days the eggs will begin to hatch. Hatchlings measure 18-20 inches long and are brightly marked. Juveniles are jet-black and have white or yellow crossbars on the body and four crossbars on the head.
King cobras are diurnal, or active during the daytime. Although they mostly live on land king cobras are also excellent climbers and will pursue prey into the trees. These cobras are also good swimmers.
Males will fight for a female using a "neck-wrestling" technique. The successful male then courts the female by rubbing her with his head. Both male and female are reported to remain in the vicinity of the nest until hatching. The cobras are protective of their eggs and will be very aggressive towards any human that approaches the nest. When threatened, they stand and hood and produce a hiss sound, which resembles dog's growl.
King cobras have short fangs but can strike in a highly accurate downward thrust. To achieve this, the king cobra can raise one third of its body length as high as 4-5 feet off the ground. Their fangs are hollow tubes through which venom is passed. While it is not the most poisonous of cobras, because of its large size and high venom yield, the king cobra can inject enough venom to kill an elephant. Despite this, this cobra kills fewer than five humans each year.
King cobras are good swimmers and excellent climbers. The females build complex nests that probably serve both as protection and temperature regulation for the eggs.
Its average length is 12-15 feet, but they've been known to reach over 18 feet.
On the 2011 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the king cobra is listed as Vulnerable.
The king cobra is found from eastern and northeastern India into southeastern China, the Malay Peninsula, Indonesia and the Philippine Islands.
To learn more about the conservation efforts at the Philadelphia Zoo, click here.
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