The silhouette of a hissing, hooded cobra has conjured nightmares for both animals and humans alike for thousands of years. A mythological figure in cultures worldwide, the snake is a powerful symbol, and members of the cobra family can be thought of as the ‘kings’ of the snake world. Combining both super-toxic venom and hollow fangs resembling hypodermic needles, cobras bring new meaning to the term “natural-born killer”, earning them both respect and fear from the furthest stretches of Africa to India. Numbering over 270 species, the Elapidae family of cobras have a millennia-long reputation for being as ruthless as they are deadly. But within this family, not all are alike, and subtle distinctions can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.
From the mountains, plains, and forests of the Indian subcontinent to the great rivers, deserts, and savannas of Africa, the cobra clan rules the animal kingdom under pain of death.
Meet the Cobra Mafia:
Who could be the Godfather of this family but the King Cobra? As the longest venomous snake in the world, the King is also known for its speed and agility, as well as its infamous delivery of the world’s biggest venom dose. This lethal combination makes the King Cobra responsible for hundreds of deaths each year in its native Indian subcontinent.
Over on the African continent, the nine-foot-long Forest Cobra controls regional waterways through sheer intimidation. This snake isn’t much of a fighter, though: the Forest Cobra rarely expends its energy on shows of aggression, preferring to maintain dominance from the sidelines. However, this serpent isn’t afraid to use its secret weapon: a needle on the tip of its tail that delivers a lethal dose of cytotoxic and neurotoxic venoms. Compared to its far-flung relatives, though, this waterside-dwelling Romeo prefers to keep things quiet.
Not all members of this killer family avoid confrontation: the Mozambique Spitting Cobra has worked up quite the reputation for being both aggressive and deadly. Quick to retaliate if it senses a threat, this Sniper of the family brings down its victims by spitting its cytotoxic venom into their eyes, causing extreme pain and tissue damage. This serpent brings a unique set of weapons to the table, but is still a valuable part of this deadly clan.
Living in a dry, isolated part of the African savanna, the Cape cobra largely keeps to itself. However, its unpredictability and relative un-traceability make it a truly terrifying threat combined with its incredibly potent venom, believed to be the most toxic of any creature in Africa. This recluse has become an expert at covering its tracks, making its attacks difficult to identify and keeping its distance from the rest of the family.
The Rinkhals snake has earned a spot as an honorary member of the cobra family, but is technically only a distant relative. The Faker of this clan, the Rinkhals is smaller than most Cobra species and occupies the less-desirable grasslands and urban areas. However, taking notes from the Sniper, this snake also hurls venom at its victims without having to approach closely, and is just as aggressive as the most deadly of its adopted relatives.
Can’t get enough? Sink your teeth into the world of the Cobra Mafia this Sunday at 9/8c on Nat Geo WILD!