Now king cobra on ‘endangered’ list

Sustained loss of habitat has now placed the world's longest venomous snake, the king cobra, on the 'endangered' list. The snake is found mostly in the Indian rainforests in the Western Ghats.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature's latest "Red List of Threatened Species" features king cobra. Besides loss of habitat, overuse for medicinal purposes has been cited as one of the reasons.

Rain forests in the Western Ghats, which receive high annual rainfall, is the home of the king cobra, a powerful and ancient religious icon in India.

Indonesia and the Philippines are also home to these majestic and ecologically valuable snakes, which average at 3 to 4 m in length and typically weigh about 6 kg.

"The world's largest venomous snake, the king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), is listed as vulnerable due to loss of habitat and over-exploitation for medicinal purposes," says the IUCN Red List. It shows 10 per cent of snakes endemic to China and South East Asia are threatened with extinction.

Snakes are used in traditional medicines and anti-venom serum as food and are a source of income from the sale of skins.

The Burmese python (Python bivittatus), best-known in the West as an invasive species in the Florida Everglades, is also listed as vulnerable in its native range, with trade and over-exploitation for food and skins being the main threats.

Despite its designation as a protected species in China, populations there show no evidence of recovery, and illegal harvesting continues, says the IUCN.

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