Have you ever heard of such an intriguing profession as a snake charmer? This craft is most commonly found in India. It is the spectacled snake, also called the Indian cobra, that dances and sways to the melodic sounds of the flute of its skilled trainer, as if under hypnosis. The spectacle, of course, is fascinating, but also unsafe, because the reptile is very poisonous. Let’s take a closer look at the habits, characterize the way of life and describe the external distinguishing features of the Indian cobra in order to understand how dangerous and aggressive it is.
Origin of the species and description
The spectacled snake is also called the Indian cobra. This is a poisonous reptile from the asp family, belonging to the genus Real cobras. Like all other varieties of cobras, the Indian has the ability to move apart the ribs in case of danger, forming a kind of hood. The hood is the main feature that distinguishes cobras from other snakes. Only in a spectacle snake, the hood looks unusual, because. the back is decorated with a bright pattern, similar in shape to glasses, which is why the reptile was called the spectacle.
The Indian cobra is divided into varieties, among which the following subspecies of cobras can be distinguished:
- singing Indian;
- Central Asian;
The Indians treat the spectacled snake with deep reverence; there are many beliefs and legends about it. People say that Buddha himself awarded the cobra with this interesting ornament on the hood. This happened because the cobra once opened its hood to cover the sun and protect the sleeping Buddha from the bright light. For this service, he thanked all spectacled snakes, giving such a pattern in the form of rings, which not only decorates, but also performs a kind of protection function.
Interesting fact: Seeing a bright and unusual pattern on hood of a cobra, the predatory ill-wisher falls into confusion and does not attack the spectacled snake from behind.
In terms of dimensions, the spectacled snake is inferior to the king cobra, the length of its body varies from one and a half to two meters. This snake person is very poisonous and, as a result, dangerous. The bite of the Indian cobra is dangerous for both animals and humans. A poisonous toxin, acting on the nervous system, leads to paralysis. Among the small teeth of the Indian cobra, two large fangs stand out, in which the poisonous potion is hidden.
Appearance and features
With the dimensions of an Indian we have already figured out the cobras, but the color of the snake skin varies slightly in different individuals, this is determined by the places of permanent deployment of the reptile.
It can be:
- bright yellow;
- yellowish gray;
It was noticed that even individuals living close to each other, in the same area, have different shades in color. Still, most often there are specimens, the color of the scales of which is fiery yellow with a certain reflection of a bluish tint. The belly of the reptile has a light gray or yellow-brown color. The color of young animals differs from the color of mature individuals by dark transverse stripes on the body. As they grow older, they become completely pale and gradually disappear.
Video: Spectacled snake
The head of a spectacled snake is rounded and its snout is slightly blunt. The transition of the head to the body is smooth, there is no contrasting neck notch. The eyes of the reptile are dark, small in size with round pupils. There are rather large shields in the head area. A pair of large poisonous fangs grows on the upper jaw. The remaining small teeth are located at a small distance from them.
The entire body of a spectacled snake is covered with scales that are smooth to the touch, and therefore slightly iridescent. The elongated body of the reptile ends in a thin and long tail. Of course, the most remarkable feature is the spectacle ornament, it is a rather bright and contrasting pattern of a lighter tone, it is especially noticeable when the cobra’s hood is open during danger. At such moments, the sight of the Indian cobra is very mesmerizing, although it warns of danger.
Interesting fact: Among the Indian cobras, there are specimens on the hood of which there is an image of only one eyepiece, they are called monocles.
Where does the spectacle snake live?
The Indian cobra is a heat-loving person, therefore it lives in places with a hot climate. The range of its settlement is quite extensive. It extends from the territories of the Indian state, Central Asia and southern China to the islands that are part of the Malay Archipelago and the Philippines. The reptile is also found on the African continent.
The spectacled snake can also be found in the vastness of:
- Sri Lanka;
- Hindostan Peninsula;
The reptile often takes a fancy to the humid terrain of the jungle, and also lives in mountain ranges at an altitude of about two and a half kilometers. In China, the Indian cobra is often found in rice fields. This snake person does not shy away from people, therefore, often, she settles near human dwellings. Sometimes it can be seen in city parks and home gardens.
The creeping one chooses a variety of places for her shelters:
- spaces between tree roots;
- heaps brushwood;
- old ruins;
- rocky crevices;
- secluded caves;
- deep ravines;
- abandoned termite mounds.
For a spectacled snake, the most important factor in successful life is the presence of a mild and warm climate in its habitats, therefore, it is impossible to meet this reptile in countries with severe weather conditions. In many states where the Indian cobra was registered (India, Southeast Asia), she is a very revered person among the local population. This is primarily due to religious beliefs.
Interesting fact: The territories of many Buddhist and Hindu temples are decorated with images and statues of cobra.
Now you know where the spectacled snake lives. Let’s see what this Indian cobra eats.
What does the spectacled snake eat?
The menu of the Indian cobra mainly consists of all kinds of reptiles and rodents (mice and rats). Amphibians (toads, frogs) and some birds are also included in her diet. Sometimes the spectacled reptile is engaged in ruining nests (especially those birds that nest on the ground or in low bushes), eating both eggs and chicks. Cobras living near human settlements can attack poultry, rabbits and other small animals. An adult spectacled snake can easily dine on a hare by swallowing it whole.
Snakes living in different regions go hunting at different times. They are looking for their potential prey in thickets of tall grass, and on the ground, and even in water spaces, because they know how to swim perfectly. When the Indian cobra is about to attack, it raises the front of its body, opens its hood and begins to hiss loudly. During a lightning attack, the cobra tries to make a well-aimed poisonous bite. When the venom begins to take effect, it paralyzes the victim, who can no longer resist, and the reptile swallows it without difficulty.
Interesting fact: The venom of a spectacled snake is very toxic, just one gram of a dangerous toxin is enough to kill over a hundred small dogs.
Of all the variety of the menu, the spectacled snake, nevertheless, gives its preference to small rodents, which form the basis of its nutrition. For this, Indians who are engaged in agriculture appreciate her, because she exterminates a lot of rodent pests that cause great damage to crop areas. Spectacled snakes can go long periods without water. Apparently, they have enough moisture from the food they get.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
As already noted, the spectacled snake does not avoid a person at all, settling near him. Not feeling the threat and aggression, the cobra will not be the first to attack, but will prefer to sneak away so as not to spoil the nerves of either itself or the biped it has met. Usually, all the tragic cases of bites and attacks of this creeping person are associated with the forced defense of one’s own life, when the person himself behaves unfriendly.
Indians know that the spectacled snake will be distinguished by nobility and will never climb on the rampage. Usually, on the first throw, the snake will attack empty, not using poison, it will only make a headbutt, which serves as a warning that it is ready for a toxic attack. If it has occurred, then in the next thirty minutes, characteristic signs of intoxication appear:
- a feeling of severe dizziness;
- confusion, confusion in thought;
- impaired coordination;
- increased weakness in the muscles;
- nausea and vomiting.
If you do not enter a specialized antidote, then after a few hours, paralysis covers the heart muscle and the bitten person dies. A person can die much earlier, it all depends on where the bite was made.
Interesting fact: According to statistics, out of 1000 attacks by Indian cobras, only 6 are fatal, apparently due to the fact that most often the snake is limited to the first, warning, non-toxic bite.
The spectacled reptile can climb trees very well and is an excellent swimmer, but prefers terrestrial life. In addition to all these abilities, the snake special has an extraordinary artistic talent, often entertaining the audience with her smooth dancing movements to the sounds of the fakir’s pipe. Of course, the point here is not in dancing, but in excellent knowledge of the nature of the reptile and the ability of the trainer to end the performance at the right time before the snake makes its fatal attack.
Social structure and reproduction
Indian cobras become sexually mature at the age of three. The wedding season for these reptiles comes in the midst of winter – in January-February. And already in the May period, the female is ready to lay eggs, because spectacled snakes are egg-laying reptiles. Spectacled snake persons are caring mothers, they carefully look for a place for their nesting, making sure that it is not only secluded, reliable, but also warm.
On average, the laying of an Indian cobra has from one to two dozen eggs, but there are exceptions when the number of eggs can reach up to 45 pieces. A pair of cobras, created during the mating season, does not part immediately after mating. The future father stays with the female in order to jealously protect the nest from any encroachments of various predatory animals. During this period, the couple is on the alert all the time, she becomes very aggressive and militant. It is better not to disturb the snake family at this time, so as not to regret the sad consequences later.
Interesting fact: the Indian cobra does not incubate eggs, like its royal relative, but the male and female are always are located near the nest, conducting continuous monitoring of the clutch.
The incubation period lasts for two and a half months and ends with the hatching of kites, the length of which reaches 32 cm. Small snakes cannot be called harmless, from birth they have not only independence, but also poisonousness. The babies are immediately able to actively move and quickly leave their nest, setting off on their first hunt.
At first, their diet consists of medium-sized lizards and frogs, gradually all kinds of rodents begin to dominate the menu. Juveniles can be recognized by the transverse stripes on the body, which completely disappear as they grow older. There is no exact data on age, but scientists believe that under natural conditions, the Indian cobra can live up to 20 or 25 years, and in the most favorable conditions it reaches the age of thirty.
Natural enemies of spectacled snakes
Despite the fact that the spectacled reptile is very poisonous, in natural conditions it has enemies who are not averse to feasting on this dangerous creeping person. First of all, young animals, which are the most vulnerable and inexperienced, may suffer. Birds of prey such as serpent eagles attack young snakes directly from the air, easily coping with them. Young growth is also eaten with pleasure by monitor lizards. The king cobra specializes in snake snacks, so without a twinge of conscience it can eat its closest relative, the Indian cobra.
The most notorious and reckless enemy of the Indian cobra is the brave mongoose, which does not have complete immunity to the poisonous toxin of the snake, but its body shows weak sensitivity to the poison, so this predatory animal from the viverra family dies very rarely from a reptile bite. The mongoose relies only on its resourcefulness, agility and dexterity.
The animal plagues the spectacled person with its active movements and relentless jumps. When the right moment comes, the red-haired brave man makes his crown jump, the apogee of which is a snake bite in the neck or the back of the head, from which he crawls and dies. Kipling immortalized the feat of the brave mongoose Riki-Tiki-Tavi in his work. But he fought there precisely with the family of Indian cobras (Nagaina and Nag). Mongooses kill not only the reptiles themselves, but often ruin their nesting sites by eating snake eggs. In addition to mongooses, meerkats also prey on the spectacled snake.
Species population and status
The population of the Indian cobra is greatly influenced by a variety of human activities. Gradually, the number of these reptiles is decreasing, although there is no sharp jump in the direction of decline. First of all, the plowing of land for fields and the occupation of spaces for the construction of human settlements negatively affect the life of these snakes. A person displaces a snake person from her usual places of deployment, so she is forced to settle near human habitation.
The capture of cobras is carried out in order to extract their valuable poison, which is used for medical and cosmetic purposes. It is used to create a serum that is administered for snake bites. The Indian cobra often suffers because of its beautiful skin, which is used for tailoring various haberdashery products. In various countries of Asia, cobra meat is considered an expensive delicacy, it is often served in restaurants, preparing a lot of different dishes. All these factors negatively affect the size of the spectacled snake population.
Until recently, the spectacled snake was not endangered, but its persecution for valuable skin has intensified, which has reduced its numbers. As a result, the Indian cobra came under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Spectacled snake protection
As it turned out, the situation with the number of Indian cobras is not entirely favorable. The number of reptiles is gradually decreasing due to barbaric human actions, which are very destructive not only for the spectacled snake. Now the Indian cobra (spectacled snake) falls under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, this reptile is prohibited from being exported outside its home countries for the purpose of further resale.
It was previously mentioned that several varieties are included in the genus of True cobras or spectacled snakes, one of which is the Central Asian cobra, which is considered a very rare vulnerable species and is under protection. She suffers, first of all, because of the reduction in the places of her permanent residence. Previously, the snake was listed in the Red Book of the USSR. After its collapse, the Central Asian cobras were listed in the Red Books of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. On the territory of these countries, reserves have been created where the reptile is protected.
From 1986 to 1994, this species of Indian cobra was listed in the International Red Book as endangered. It is currently listed on the IUCN Red List as a species of undetermined status. This happens because no research has been conducted on its population since the nineties, and there is no reliable data on this matter.
In conclusion, I would like to note that for Indians, the spectacled snake or the Indian cobra is a national treasure. Indigenous people make good money by attracting crowds of enthusiastic tourists who are mesmerized by the hypnotic cobra dance. In India and some other Asian countries, this reptile is revered and considered sacred. The spectacled snake brings considerable benefits to agriculture by eating pest rodents.
If we recall its noble character, which manifests itself in the fact that the spectacled snake will not attack for no reason and will always warn the ill-wisher first, then the impression of this a person develops only positive.