How dangerous is the venomous bite of a King Cobra really?

The king cobra's venom consists of cytotoxins and neurotoxins, including alpha-neurotoxins and three-finger toxins

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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How dangerous is the venomous bite of a King Cobra really?

King cobra lives an average of 20 years, usually in tropical forests and mangroves, near streams and in wetlands, since he is an expert swimmer. Its habitat has been destroyed by men in recent years, so much so that today the king cobra is in danger of extinction.

It also goes into cultivated areas, where it can create problems for farmers due to the dangerous poison, which is not powerful in itself, but due to the very large quantity injected in a single bite equal to 7 ml. The king cobra's venom consists of cytotoxins and neurotoxins, including alpha-neurotoxins and three-finger toxins.

Other components have cardiotoxic effects. Its venom is produced in anatomical glands named postorbital venom glands. It can deliver up to 420 mg venom in dry weight (400–600 mg overall) per bite, with a LD50 toxicity in mice of 1.28 mg/kg through intravenous injection, 1.5 to 1.7 mg/kg through subcutaneous injection, and 1.644 mg/ kg through intraperitoneal injection.

For research purposes, up to 1 g of venom was obtained through milking. The toxins affect the victim's central nervous system, resulting in severe pain, blurred vision, vertigo, drowsiness, and eventually paralysis. If the envenomation is serious, it progresses to cardiovascular collapse, and the victim falls into a coma.

Death soon follows due to respiratory failure. The affected person can die within 30 minutes of envenomation. Ohanin, a protein component of the venom, causes hypolocomotion and hyperalgesia in mammals. Large quantities of antivenom may be needed to reverse the progression of symptoms.

The king cobra is listed in CITES Appendix II. It is protected in China and Vietnam. In India, it is placed under Schedule II of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Killing a king cobra is punished with imprisonment of up to six years.

In the Philippines, king cobras (locally known as banakon) are included under the list of threatened species in the country. It is protected under the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act (Republic Act No. 9147), which criminalizes the killing, trade, and consumption of threatened species with certain exceptions.

In Southeast Asia, the king cobra is threatened foremost by habitat destruction owing to deforestation and expansion of agricultural land. It is also threatened by poaching for its meat, skin and for use in traditional Chinese medicine.