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Egyptian Banded Cobra

Taxonomy
Order: Squamata
Family: Elapidae
Genus/species: Naja haje annulifera

Description
The banded cobra is a large snake reaching eight feet (2.4 m) in length. The body color of the Egyptian banded cobra varies from yellowish or grayish-brown to a very dark brown with broad black bands encircling the body. When aroused it can rear up some 18 to 24 inches (45 to 60 cm) and at the same time spread a broad hood, which may be more than five inches (12 cm) across.

They are fast-moving snakes and are said to be very intelligent. They don't spit like the spitting cobra. They are front-fanged snakes and are quite venomous. The venom, which contains a very powerful neurotoxin, is potent and the bite of an adult specimen can be rapidly fatal to a human if not promptly treated.

They are more active at night but are not strictly nocturnal and may also be seen during the day. Their major enemies are raptors and mongooses.

Distribution and Habitat
Egyptian banded cobras are found in most of the hot, dry regions of northern Africa.

They are mostly terrestrial and are usually found near water. They can climb trees and swim with agility. They generally return to the same lair each day, which might be a burrow, a hollow tree, a rocky crevice, or an abandoned termite mound.

Diet in the Wild
Egyptian cobras are especially partial to toads, but also feed on small mammals, birds, eggs, lizards, snakes, frogs, and sometimes fish.

Zoo Diet
They are fed mice or rats about twice a month.

Reproduction
Egyptian banded cobras lay eight to 20 eggs that are 2 to 2.5 inches long (5 to 6.4 cm) and 1.25 inches (3.2 cm) wide in a sheltered hole or cavity in the ground or in a tree. After incubation of about two months, hatchlings of nine to 13 inches (23 to 33 cm) emerge. Maturity occurs in two to three years.

Life Span
They may live as long as ten years in the wild and 20 to 25 years in zoos.

Status
They are neither threatened nor endangered, but their relative, the Indian cobra, is listed on CITES Appendix II.

Fun Facts
Respected in ancient Egypt, the Egyptian cobra represented imperial power and was depicted rearing up with its hood displayed on the crown of Egyptian pharaohs. Of all the possible candidates, it is most likely Cleopatra's "asp," offering a quick and reasonably painless death.