King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah)

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Lovestruck Snakes

Late in the dry season (January through March), the normally solitary king cobra goes looking for love. Shedding skin at the beginning of the breeding season causes the female to release pheromones, which helps the male track her down in the thick underbrush. The male rubs his head on the female's body to announce his intentions. If she doesn't seem interested, the Casanova will butt and push her until she agrees to mate. If another male is on the scene, the cobras will wrestle, attempting to push their opponent's head to the ground. When the female is agreeable, the male will wrap his body around her, and the two will remain in this position for several hours. It is thought that male king cobras mate with the same female in successive seasons. The female can store the male's sperm for several years until she's ready to have offspring.

A Protective Parent

In April, May or June, the female king cobra lays a clutch of 20 to 50 eggs in a nest made of twigs, leaves and other vegetation, which she scrapes together into a pile with her coils. No other species of snake does this. The heat created by the rotting vegetation helps incubate the eggs. Once the eggs are deposited, the mother hollows out a second chamber for herself. There she sits for two to three months, guarding the eggs against monitor lizards and mongooses, which may eat them; elephants, which may trample them; wild boars, which may do both; and other predacious or "clumsy" animals. If necessary she will fiercely defend her clutch, but if sufficiently disturbed may abandon the eggs early.

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