The scientific name for an Indian cobra is Naja naja and it is commonly known as the spectacled cobra. This highly venomous, medium sized snake is native to the Indian subcontinent and other isolated parts of Asia. It is considered to be one of the top four most dangerous snakes in India. The most common species used by snake charmers, the Indian cobra is often kept as a pet. Like most known cobra species, the Indian cobra is not a live bearer.
According to the National Geographic Society, the venom contained in a single bite from a mature Indian cobra is powerful enough to kill up to 20 people. The potent venom of this species causes paralysis, quickly rending the victim helpless. As the venom courses through the body, unless the subject is quickly treated with an appropriate antidote, it paralyzes the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, resulting in death. Research is ongoing into whether components of the venom from this snake have any medicinal value, particularly as a muscle relaxant and anti-spasmodic.
Despite very powerful venom and a certain level of infamy as one of the most dangerous snakes in India, there are comparatively few human deaths reported as a result of bites from this species. This is largely because the snake avoids contact with humans as much as possible. The Indian cobra can often be found in areas of human habitation, even though few encounters are reported. The primary diet of this species is rats; urban areas make excellent feeding areas, but the snakes only venture into areas such as sewers which are a favorite hiding place for rats. The snake is very unlikely to come across a human there.
Although it prefers rats, the Indian cobra will also eat small reptiles, birds, eggs, and mammals. Often reaching in excess of 6 feet (1.8 meters), this species is reasonably placid and does not bite unless threatened or provoked. Only experienced handlers usually keep this species as a pet because of the deadly venom, and it is not generally recommended for novices. Now protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, this snake was the most common species used in the now illegal practice of snake charming.
Neither diurnal or nocturnal, this species is active either day or night; activity and hunting patterns are often organized according to when prey is most active in the home range of the snake. Usually a solitary creature that interacts with a male only to breed, the female Indian cobra is an egg layer as opposed to a live bearer, laying her eggs deep underground and producing as many as 30. Like most female cobras, she will guard and protect her eggs until they hatch. She then leaves them because they are immediately independent. As soon as they hatch, although only 12 inches (30 cm), the juveniles are already capable of taking prey and defending themselves, being born with both working fangs and potent venom.