Naja najaIndian Cobra

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Geographic Range

Pakistan, India (throughout most of the country),

Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, possibly E. Afghanistan. (EMBL Reptile Database 2001)

Habitat

Naja naja occurs in wild forest and in cultivated areas. (Tropical Rainforest Animals, 2000)

Physical Description

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. (India4U,2000; Discovery, 2000; Breen, 1974)

Reproduction

The Indian Cobra reproduces sexually by the joining of male and female gametes and produces eggs. Most snakes do not pay much attention to their eggs, but this is not the case with the Indian Cobra. The eggs, usually 12 to 20, are laid in a hollow tree, or in the earth, and the female will guard them throughout the incubation period, only leaving to feed. The young snakes will then hatch after approximately 50 days. Immediately freeing itself from the egg, a hatchling is capable of rearing up, spreading its hood and striking. (Breen, 1974; Burton, 1991; Tropical Rainforest Animals, 2000)

Lifespan/Longevity

Behavior

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. (Burton, 1991; Tropical Rainforest Animals, 2000; Discovery, 2000; Breen, 1974)

Food Habits

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. (Breen, 1974; Burton, 1991)

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. (Discovery, 2000; Burton, 1991)

Economic Importance for Humans: 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. (Burton, 1991)

Conservation Status

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 CITES treaty because it closely resembles other species that are threatened and in need of protection. (Burton, 1991; Tropical Rainforest Animals, 2000)

Other Comments

This species is often kept by the "snake charmers" of India. This form of entertainment can be quite mysterious as the cobra seems to dance to the melody of the snake charmer's pipe. Actually, snakes cannot hear. They are provoked into a striking position and are held in a concentrating effort to follow the charmer's hands and pipe, which results in their "dancing" movement. (Burton, 1991)

Contributors

Joel Ramirez (author), Fresno City College, Jerry Kirkhart (editor), Fresno City College.

Glossary

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

References

2000. Discovery Channel. Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Discovery Books.

"Tropical Rainforest Animals" (On-line). Accessed October 20, 2000 at http://mbgnet.mobot.org/sets/rforest/animals/cobra.htm.

Breen, J. 1974. Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: T.F.H. Publications.

Burton, J. 1991. The Book of Snakes. Quarto Publishing.

EMBL Reptile Database, 2001. "Naja naja" (On-line). Accessed 28 March 2001 at http://www.embl-heidelberg.de/~uetz/LivingReptiles.html.

india4u.com, 2000. "Poisonous Snakes of India" (On-line). Accessed October 21, 2000 at http://www.india4u.com/wildlife/snakes.asp.