Monocled Cobra ( Naja kaouthia Lesson, 1831 )

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Name
Scientific Name: 
Naja kaouthia (Lesson, 1831)
Regional Names: 
Bengali: 
Keute
Photographs: 
Cuttak, Odisha
Distribution: 
Found in all North-east states, above Gangetic plains (Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand), Odisha, parts of Chota Nagpur (eastern Chattisgarh, whole of Bihar and Jharkhand), Haryana (probably the western most limit of this species)
Venom Type: 
Neurotoxic
Family: 
Characteristics for identification: 

It can be identified easily only if it shows hood which bears a rounded or mask shaped hood mark. Otherwise its wide range of colorations and banded forms looks close to Rat Snake (Ptyas mucosa) and Checkered Keelback (Xenochrophis piscator) which gives confusion many times.

Description: 

New born- 20-35cm.
Average length- 150cm (5ft).
Maximum length- 230cm.

Dorsal -
Body slender with oval shaped smooth scales. Body colour show wide range of colors including dark Yellow, light or dark brown, reddish-brown, black with reddish or grayish ting etc. Bands present in most of the specimens and have contrasting color with main dorsal color.

Ventral -
Belly color can also range from milky white or white mixed with yellow, gray, brown etc. depends on the color of the dorsal body. Sometimes dark colored patches also present which look like ventral scales of a Rat Snake.

Head -
Head slightly triangular with shiny smooth scales, not broader than neck. Neck appears thick when the hood is unstretched. When angered, it stretches hood to show the famous rounded hood mark. Hood mark design may be in the form of complete rounded spot (like eye or moon), may be open from top(like Spectacled Cobra) or can join with edge of the hood. Eyes have rounded pupil. Tongue colour Reddish or Pinkish, Black on tip.

Tail -
Shorter than typical range and ends with pointed tip. In many individuals underside of tail have darker or lighter color.

Scalation
Head: 
Usually more than one cuneate scale exist on each side; supralabial 7; 3rd & 4th in contact with eyes; 3rd supralabial is significantly larger then rest of foreside supralabials; preocular 1, in contact with posterior nasal hence loreal absent; postocular 3; temporal 2+3.
Dorsal: 
Males- 26-34 (at 10th ventral): 19-23 (at 20% and 40% ventral): 17-21 (at 60% of ventral): 14-17 (at 80% of ventral): 14-19 (at vent). Females- 24-33 (at 10th ventral): 19-23 (at 20% and 40% ventral): 17-21 (at 60% of ventral): 15-17 (at 80% of ventral): 15-18 (at vent).
Ventral: 
170-192 (Male),178-197 (Female).
Sub Caudal: 
48-61 (Male), 46-59 (Female); divided; anal entire.
Habitat: 
Lives up to 3300ft elevation in its range. Distributed in rainforests, mixed, moist decidious forest, wet grasslands, mangroves, hill forests etc. Lives in dense & open forests, agricultural lands, rural and urban areas having vegetation and wetland, agricultural lands having mounds and deep hiding places, old woods etc. Hides in mounds, holes, piles, caves, cracks, under fallen wooden logs etc.
Natural History: 
Monocled Cobra is a crepuscular and nocturnal species which shows both terrestrial and climbing activity depending upon needs. Behavior alert, aggressive and very quick to respond. On provocation raise its one third of forebody to show famous hood and hiss loudly to give warnings. Unlike Spectacled Cobra (N. naja) it can bite in very first attack which makes it more dangerous than N. naja. To escape it tries to creep slowly by keeping eyes on enemy (many times it displays hood while creeping). It is assumed to capable in reproducing most of the year depending upon geographical area. Mating occurs during winter months to summer. Female lays up to 18 eggs in dry mounds, caves, holes etc. New born seen from Summer to most of the monsoon.
Diet: 
Feeds on variety of animals including frogs, toads, rodents, fishes; also feeds on birds, other snakes including venomous, small mammals etc.
Bite symptoms: 

Envenoming by N. kaouthia causes local swelling of the bitten part and in a large number of cases also progressive paralysis of the peripheral nervous system, leading to respiratory paralysis and death due to asphyxia. Neurotoxic features of N. kaouthia envenoming are typically reversible by antivenom and anticholinesterase treatment. Local envenoming may result in tissue necrosis and contractures requiring surgical intervention.

Threats: 
Direct threats includes killing due to its venom potency, fear due to its aggressive behavior and road kills. This snake is exploited extensively by east Indian snake charmers and comes in pet & skin trade too. Many communities consume this species for edible use. Its venom is used in production of Anti Venom Serum and various research use so venom harvesting is done illegally in some parts of India and many other countries of its range. Other threats in India are wetland loss, pollution and poisoning in agricultural lands etc. Many countries are known for its exploitation for Chinese medicines and snake vine.
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