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COBRA! Magnificent Snake that became an Acronym
COBRA...the name we don't forgetClick thumbnail to view full-size
Cobras are feared, respected and even loved
There is no denizen of the wide world of reptiles which attracts more emotion than the Elapids, among which are found the venomous Cobras. This ranges from outright fear, through respect all over their range, to even love of the “Najas” in the great continent of India. The name “cobra” is actually that for snake in Portugal.
No venomous snake has the visual impact of the larger species as they open their formidable hoods, and, in the case of the giant of the species, the King Cobra, rise to a majestic height allowing them to look a person in the eyes as an equal, fixing two ebony eyes on the stranger, slowly beginning a hypnotic swaying from side to side.
Cobras are generally thought of as an Asian reptile, although Africa may have a few more species in actuality. The dying art (thank goodness) of snake charming was seen and described by thousands of tourists. What they did not realize perhaps is that there is actually eleven Asian species and they are all venomous but some are “spitters” and the rest just “biters.” The latter possess mostly neurotoxic venom, while the spitting fraternity – seeking to immobilise through pain and blinding – use a predominately cytotoxic venom.
There are more than 20 species of Cobras. Even one in the US, the “Micrurus Fulvius, better known perhaps as the Eastern Coral Snake.
They feed on small mammals, birds, rodents and amphibians as well as other snakes, they tend to hunt around human habitation which often brings them into contact with the home owner and his children.
As the cobra is seen as Buddha's protector by Asia's Buddhists and is also venerated by the area's Hindus. Sceptics will note that in Sri Lanka cobras the spectacle-like markings on the hood and upper body are really Buddha's thumb and finger-print. You remain a sceptic? Shame on you!
For these reasons, many Asians will not kill cobras, allowing them to remain around the houses and in rice-paddies etc., where they do rid the neighbourhood of vermin and unfortunately also send a lot of people to an early grave. The numbers of people who keep on surviving due to the snakes killing huge amounts of disease carrying rats also predisposes the nations in their favour.
The King Cobra is a glorious creature to behold indeed. It has a majestic and benign presence and seems possessed of an intelligence raising it above other reptiles. It is the longest venomous snake in the world. It builds a nest for its young and stays to guard them against all comers, even elephants which it may strike on the sensitive trunk-tip causing the huge beast's demise!
More like a large dog, the King can show its fangs and even growl quite loudly, although they are loath to actually attack humans and rarely do so, perhaps because most who encounter this snake beat a hasty retreat. It is also more confined to areas away from human habitation. Its diet largely consists of other venomous snakes, especially the rattlesnakes on Asia.
A full-on, enraged attack from a large King Cobra could inject up to 500 mg of venom and an attack like this would insure death within minutes without immediate hospitalisation and antivenin, (the average toxic dose for an adult human is around 25 mg!).
Handlers have reported a spiritual feeling when capturing a King Cobra, almost as if the snake was asking them, “Why?” (from Mark O'Shea's books).
The saliva of Spitting Cobras is very nasty indeed. They can spit twin jets of venom very accurately from up to 12 feet into a molester's eyes. This can cause temporary and permanent blindness as well as severe pain. They also have a dangerous, life-threatening bite.
All large venomous snakes are aware of the potential of their defences and will not employ them to non-prey animals such as man without provocation: even then, they may decide not to inject the full wallop of venom, but you won't enjoy the pain and effects of even 2 mg's of King Cobra, Taipan, or Mambo venom. (three worst in the world).
The rule is keep clear of all snakes, especially true in Africa with such diversity and so many similarities between non and venomous snakes. Australia is the only continent making it easy....90% of their snakes are deadly, and several are the world's worst so they are not to be handled by the amateur – indeed, venomous snakes have killed or disfigured many experienced handlers and herpetologists so beware.
Cobra is a word loaded with so much menace and imagery, it has been co-opted in many areas of commerce and human endeavour.
Cobra car – the AC Cobra of the 60's, 180 mph screamer.
COBRA – the Cabinet Office Briefing Room
Cobra action film with Sly Stallone (who else?)
Bell Cobra deadly helicopter
COBRA armoured vehicle
Etc, etc., I'm sure you can think of more.