Egyptian Cobra

Range: Large geographical range thought to include the following countries: Algeria, Benin, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. 

Habitat: Found near water sources in savannahs, rocky outcroppings, and semi-desert regions. 

Natural Diet: Small mammals, birds, and other snakes.  The Egyptian Cobra is a voracious feeder in the wild and in captivity.

Diet at Rain Forest: Frozen rodents and chicks.

Size: 5-7 feet, one of the largest of African Cobras.

RainForest Facts: This cobra is one of the most frequently used snakes in the "Snake Charming" arena.  A wide hood and impressive build make this Cobra species a suitable entertainer for the charmers. 

According to legend, Cleopatra asked that an asp, an Egyptian cobra, be delivered to her in a basket of figs. The asp was worshipped in ancient Egypt and used as a symbol on the crown of the pharaohs.  By allowing this symbol of divine royalty to bite her, Cleopatra was believed to become immortal.

A gilded wooden cobra called netjer-ankh ("living god") was found in the tomb of Tutankhamen. It is representative of the cobra's associations with the afterlife. In funerary works, the cobra is often depicted spitting fire. Two cobras doing just that were said to guard the gates of every "hour" of the underworld. During the Late Period, uraei were also shown towing the barque of the sun in funerary papyri. In all of these examples, the cobra's protective nature is clearly demonstrated.

The venom of the Egyptian cobra is neurotoxic, that is it destroys nerve tissue, and it is much stronger than that of the common cobra. This venom has been used for many years in medical research because it has an enzyme, lecithinase, that dissolves cell walls and membranes surrounding viruses. When injected into its prey, the venom causes paralysis and death due to respiratory failure, usually within 15 minutes. With effective serum more available, however, the high death rate in some areas of Asia has decreased.

Status in Wild: This snake is rapidly disappearing in the majority of its former range due primarily to over collection and loss of habitat.   This species is often drawn towards human habitation where rodents etc. are more common.  In coming into proximity with humans the cobra is often killed on sight.

Man represents the largest predator of this species of snake.  The skins of the Cobra  are one of the most highly prized of the exotic leathers originating from reptiles, commanding prices as high as two hundred US dollars for a large skin.  It is said, "a cobra hunter always returns victorious" (because if unsuccessful, they do not return).

Click here for book on Venomous U.S. Snakes


This species is not currently on exhibit at RainForest