Egyptian Cobra Fact Sheet

Common Name:

Egyptian Cobra (Cleopatra's asp)

Scientific Name:

Naja haje

Wild Status:

Unknown

Habitat:

steppes; arid semi-desert regions; tend to live near water

Country:

Most of North Africa; dispersed throughout the rest of central Africa

Shelter:

Grasses and rocks; abandoned animal burrows

Life Span:

~25 years

Size:

3.5-6 feet

Cool Facts:

  • According to myth, in 30 BC, Cleopatra committed suicide by allowing an asp to bite her, this snake is otherwise known as the Egyptian cobra.
  • This snake is known as one of the most deadly snakes in Africa.
  • They can be particularly dangerous because of their scavenging habits that often lead them into agricultural fields, barns, and homes.
  • The Egyptian cobra is able to flatten the rib bones on its neck when threatened, displaying itself as larger than it actually is.
  • If untreated, a bite from this majestic reptile can kill an elephant in 3 hours and a human in 15 minutes.
  • These snakes have been seen swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, using their expanded necks as a sail.
  • In ancient Egypt, this cobra was seen as a symbol of power and was often used to decorate statues or members of royalty, such as the pharaoh.

Details:

You've heard of the King cobra, the longest of all venomous snakes. Well, did you know that there are actually several species of cobra? The Egyptian cobra is one of the largest and deadliest snakes in all of Africa. It is rumored that this is the snake that killed Cleopatra in 30 BC. This snake can also be seen in ancient Egyptian art such as the golden mask of pharaoh Tutankhamen. These snakes will often live near bodies of water and forage for their food. They eat rodents, other reptiles, and birds that are about the size of the largest part of their body or smaller. All snakes are able to detach their jaws and swallow their prey whole. In this way they do not need to chew their food like most other animals. Since this is a venomous snake, it relies on this toxic adaptation to slow down its prey and kill it almost instantly so that it can then swallow it without any trouble. In comparison, there are other species of snakes that have specialized teeth to hold tightly to their food while they wrap around it and constrict it to death. These adaptations are unique to the needs of the animal's environment.

Taxonomic Breakdown:

Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Reptilia Order: Squamata Suborder: Serpentes Family: Elapidae Genus: Naja Species: Naja haje

Conservation & Helping:

The conservation status of this species is currently unknown. There is a stigma and a fear placed against the Egyptian cobra due to its deadly bite. Though a healthy fear is certainly appropriate, it is highly important that we, as humans, also hold a respect and reverence for these animals. The truth of the matter is that they are more afraid of us than we are of them. Also, have you thought about who was here first. Perhaps it is natural to think that this snake is in your home and needs to leave... Or is it more true that we are in their home? This is just food for thought as we think about our roles in caring for the environment and conserving our beautiful home called Earth. See this link to read more about Protecting Snakes.

For Teachers and Educators

Egyptian-Cobra-Fact-Sheet.pdf

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