Naja kaouthia - Info & care
|Scientific name:||Naja kaouthia|
|Dutch name:||Thaise cobra|
|English name:||Monocle cobra|
|Reproduction:||oviparous / egglaying|
|Cites:||B / II|
Naja kaouthia. (Lesson, 1831)
The keeping of venomous reptiles, let alone fast elapids like cobras is just a small part of the reptile hobby. But within this niche group of reptile lovers the Naja kaouthia is a ‘regular’ elapid species to be kept. This has mostly to do with the fact that they don’t spit and are very hardy and get bred regularly. The Naja kaouthia is very variable within its wide range and there are many colortypes and morphs found in the hobby. So for the experienced keeper of big Elapidae and someone who has in interest in morphs Naja kaouthia is a preferred option.
Please be aware that keeping venomous reptiles is a hobby full of responsibilities towards yourself, bystanders and the hobby. Even for the most experiences handlers Cobras and alike can be unsuited. They are fast, bad tempered snakes and the venom is very potent. Just this article alone does not prepare you for keeping such an animal, You must have a solid base of experience with all kinds of snakes before you can even consider to take care of such an animal. If you are even considering keeping animals like these you must have a big dose of self-knowledge and critique and it is best to find a mentor you can visit that introduces you to this side of the hobby.
General appearance: The Naja kaouthia is built like an typical cobra, they are long relatively slender snakes but the body is strong and agile. The head is not greatly divided from the neck, has a oval to round shape and the venomglands can be seen on the side of the head behind the eye. They have round eyes with a round pupil. Like all Naja’s they have a Proteroglyphous dental type with two enlarged but fixed fangs in the front of the upperjaw. The teeth of the Naja kaouthia are not developed to spit venom but some reports of ‘spitting’ Naja kaouthia have been made. Most of these cases where made in the time Naja naja, Naja kaouthia and Naja siamensis where often confused. Or was recorded from very angry individuals, who were ‘droowling’ venom while in a defensive position, and striking while breathing out fast creating a mist. Either way these spitting specimens where never as accurate as some of the true spitting cobras like the Naja sputatrix, samarensis or sumatrana. The hood these cobras can show is round and wide. On the neck a round light pattern can be seen that revers to their common name the Monocle cobra. Depending on the local and individual this pattern can be very clear or almost non-existent. The ‘Suphan’ form lacks any form of mark in the neck and other individuals can only show a big spot without the open centre.
The overall body colour is a dark till light brown, grey or almost melanistic with a faint pattern of small light spots or bands. The Suphanensis form (originating from the Suphan Buri province in Central Thailand) is a unicolour cream white with greyish wash and grey to black colour on top of the head. Even in the wild odd coloured Naja kaouthia are often found, different variants of albino, Melanistic or Anery’s. Also in captivity there is a broad spectrum of mutations with different types of albinos, “pastel’s”, hypos and T+ albinos and the very beautiful Leucistics.
Natural range and habitat: The Monocled cobra probably has one of the widest natural ranges of all cobra species (which is the reason of their wide range of appearances). They can be found in large portions of Western India, all thru Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos, Nepal, and Thailand into Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam and some populations in the Southern part of China.
They adapt very well and can be found in a wide range of biotopes and habitats but they prefer well vegetated forests or agricultural patched because of all the rodents that get attracted to it. Other habitats they can be found are swamp areas, grasslands, mangroves and similar patches often close to water.
General behaviour: Cobra’s in general are defensive, fast moving snakes with often a short fuse, they are not as calculated as many of the Crotalinae and will bite in almost anything when they feel treated, hooks, tongs, their own body or another occupant of the enclosure when startled. They have the hood for a reason and when they feel treated they will rise up and show it to deter any attacker. If these warning signs are not respected they will bite. A bite is often powerful but short and after this the first thing they try is to get away. In the terrarium cobras can be very defensive but ones outside most are soon looking for a place to hide. Reactions in the terrarium can be strong because of ether a defensive posture, or because they are looking for food. A cobra in foodmode can be described as an unguided missile flying along grabbing what he thinks moved. As most Naja kaouthia are captive specimens they will often calm down and do not feel the need to hide all the time and will even come to the class to check out what is happening in the room.
Housing: All reptiles must be kept in a terrarium they cannot escape from, especially when that reptile is a venomous snake. We always recommend to house venomous snakes in terrariums that are placed in a separate room with a well locked door and no escape possibilities. This room will function as an extra barrier in case something unfortunate may happen.
Naja kaouthia can get big and is relatively active so a terrarium should accommodate them in this. For a single adult or pair a terrarium that measures at least 150x70x50 (Length X Width X Height) is needed. It is best to house a pair only together during breeding season or to have a terrarium that can be divided. This way you prevent you have to divide your attention between two cobras while feeding, handling etc. And as the feeding response of these snakes is very high you will prevent them reacting to the same prey, biting each other etc. Although the Monocle cobra is mostly terrestrial they will climb so a 50cm or higher terrarium will give the opportunity to provide them with big diagonally placed branches so they can climb. Also you have a better view of the whole of the terrarium, making handling easier and saver.
Use a substrate that holds moist well and absorbs waste like faecal material easily. Cobras have a fast metabolism and get fed relatively often. U can use a more natural substrate such as reptibark mixed with cocopeat and/or forest floor bedding (Cypress mulch). These substrates hold moist well. U can also use a lighter coloured material so faecal matter is seen more easy in order to clean, such as Aspen. Make sure the layer is thick enough to absorb all the waste the cobras produce and exchange the substrate preferably ones a month.
When decorating the terrarium for such active and strong venomous snakes we want to keep two things in mind, one; we want to create the needed enrichment and hiding places, two; we want to be able to see the animal all of the time because of security reasons. Corkbark is very good material to decorate with, it looks natural and can be used for hides and climbing. Use thick vines or strong branches for the Naja to climb on. When you prefer you can use a hidebox. A hidebox is a hide that can be closed easily from the outside. Trapping the animals inside without the need to handle them. This is a fast and save way (especially in a fully decorated terrarium) to do daily maintenance such as spotcleaning and changing the water which is best replaced daily to every other day. Keep in mind this method works best if the Hidebox(es) are the only real hide for the animals to use. And do not use this method as an result of lack of confidence and skill in handling these snakes. When needed such as during a medical treatment you must be fully confident and equipped to handle these snakes.
Because of their wide range Naja kaouthia is very tolerable towards different climates and temperature ranges but they prefer a sub-tropical climate with little temperature differences during day and night and they do not experience a lot of temperature differences during the change of seasons. Provide the Naja kaouthia with an airtemperature of 27/28 during the day with a hotspot that can reach 32C and let it cool a few degrees during the night but not drop below 20C in the summer. For heating it is best to use a Ceramic heatpanel or lamp attached to a thermostat. In a heated room you can also use heatstrips underneath the terrarium but these have less effect in raising the overall air temperature of the terrarium. With ceramic heating u can adjust air and hotspot temperatures without having an effect on the natural day and night cycle, making it easier to provide the snakes with the needed temperatures no matter the time of day. Other methods to heat the terrarium and provide the Naja’s with a hotspot is by using heatlamps that emit infrared, visible light and UVA. Always cover the heating equipment and lights with a screen cover because cobra’s will break them during exploring or get burned. In order to mimic a natural day and night cycle a fluorescent tube along the entire length of the terrarium can be used. Create a cycle of 11,5day/12.5 night till 13.5day/10.5night depending on the season. Although UVB does not seem to be needed for these snakes. It will enhance the development, overall health and activity of the snakes so a fluorescent tube that emits a small amount of UVB along with the natural daylight and UVA will have great benefits. Do NOT use a HID light, these emit way to much for these snakes, they are naturally living on the forest floor where most of the UVB radiated by the sun is filtered away by the canopy and in open fields they hide during most of the midday. Only a small and even amount as spread by a fluorescent tube is enough.
To raise the humidity regularly mist the enclosure. This can be done by a manual spraybottle or using a misting / rainsystem. Mist on the decoration and plants in case the snakes want to drink of it. Often the cobra’s will become active right after it has rained. Humidity must be kept around 70% but make sure the terrarium dries within a few ours after a misting session. Long-term wet substrates will cause respiratory and scale ailments. Adjust the amount and schedule of misting accordingly. Keep the waterbowl clean. As an small advise we would recommend to not place the waterbowl in a corner along the walls of the terrarium, the snakes are moving a lot along these corridors and often poo while moving. If the snake defecates in the waterbowl clean and disinfect it immediately.
Feeding: Overall are Naja species very easy to take care of in captivity (apart from the fact they are very fast and venomous). Also feeding these animals will not be an issues. They seem to be hungry all the time and the only reason for a cobra to skip a meal is when they are sick, very - very stressed or will soon lay eggs. Often feeding while in shed is not an issues to them.
In their natural habitat Naja kaouthia has a very wide range or diet. They prefer small rodents, other mammals and maybe a bird but will also consume fish, lizards, frogs and sometimes a snake. It has happened that an adult Naja kaouthia ate another occupant in the terrarium but this was often the result of a feeding response and in general, at least in captivity they do not seem to be cannibalistic. Still it is wise to only house specimens together that are the same size.
In captivity the Naja kaouthia will grow and be healthy on a staple diet of mouse and/or rats. But it is always wise to vary when possible. This can be done with other small mammals such as hamsters, gerbils, African softfurs and with chicks or quail. Feed these snakes with (several) prey-items that are not much thicker then the thickest part of their body. Young cobras have a fast metabolism and can best be fed every 4 days. After a few months until they are sub-adult it is best to feed almost every week. Adults can be fed every 10 days till month, this depends on your personal ideas on feeding. But remember these are active snakes with an high metabolism that are kept at high temperatures.
Breeding: One of the joys of taking care of reptiles is breeding them. It is a wonderful learning experience and great joy to see the result of your care and labour with a species. Baby cobras can almost be called adorable. But before you breed this species make sure there is an market for them and you can house them under the care of people that are fit to do so and know what it takes. Or you have the possibility to house 20+ fast growing baby cobra’s for as long as it is needed.
Breeding the Naja kaouthia is not a great challenge and this is one of the reasons of their abundance within the venomous reptile collections. All you need is a pair of well developed and fed cobra’s, a bit of good timing and patience. Often housing a pair together is enough to end up with eggs. But to encourage breeding activity it is best to house an pair separate outside the breeding season. Most breeding starts during the beginner of the cooler season in October/November but will last till January/March in captivity. Eggs will be laid 60 days after a successful copulation. Often the female will go in a shedcycle and shed 18 till 25 days (21 days on average) before she actually lays eggs. During this period she will bask more frequently, lay less coiled because of the mass that is developing in her body and be restless. The last few week they often decline any food. On average 15 till 30 eggs will be laid but big captive animals can lay up to 45 eggs! That are a lot of baby cobras and it might be wise de destroy some of the eggs.
Incubate the eggs in a dry incubator on a substrate like vermiculite or Repashy Hatchrite with an 90-99% humidity and temperature can range from 28 till 32 Celsius. Make sure the substrate is damp but not wet, using a thick layer of incubation substrate will make sure any access water will stay on the bottom of the container and can not touch the eggs causing suffocation or moulds.
In general the eggs will hatch after 54 till 64 days depending on the temperature of the incubator. Lower temperatures can result in a longer incubation period but often also results in bigger hatchlings. Ones the Naja kaouthia are hatched they can be kept together in a big faunabox filled with moss and a waterbowl. Place the faunabox in an extra well secured and heated terrarium to control the gradients and function as an extra safety barrier. 8 till 14 days after the young have hatched they will have their first shed after which they will almost immediately start feeding. It is wise to house the hatchlings per individual to prevent any competition, cannibalism and having to divide your focus between two occupants of the small box they are kept in.
Hatchling Naja kaouthia can immediately be fed with small pinky mouse and will grow fast so soon more preyitems or something bigger like fuzzy mouse or baby rats can be fed. If a hatchling is not feeding immediately make sure it feels secure enough. Also feeding with a live pink mouse, a dead one with the skull cut open or if really needed a thawed pinky mouse rubbed in a gecko will soon get the hatchlings to feed after which they will soon learn to eat thawed preyitems.
Venom: The Monocled cobra has a very potent venom and without proper treatment can be deadly. They are responsible for a lot of deaths in their natural range as they are often found close to humans working in the fields, in Thailand they are responsible for most of the deaths by venomous snakebite. Because of the wide range the type and mixture of the venom can differentiate per local. So it is always wise to inform about the origin of the Naja kaouthia you are keeping. Most specimens originate from Thailand. In basis the venom mostly contains a powerful mix of long working neurotoxins. These prevent the submitting of neurotransmitters. This can cause ptosis (drooping eyelids), feeling drowsy, headaches, hypertensia, (partial) paralysis and stopping the hart and lung muscles to work. The venom also contains Myotoxins and Cariotoxins, the first causing a lot of local bruising, pain and tissue damage, the second attacks the hart muscles, causing it to overwork and eventually stop causing cardiac arrest. Bites must always be taken very serious.