Forest Cobra

The forest cobra (Naja melanoleuca), also called the black cobra and black or white-lipped cobra, is a highly venomous species of cobra in the Elapidae family, native to Africa. It is Africa's largest cobra species and the largest of all the true cobra (Naja) species. It occurs mostly in central and western Africa, preferring lowland forest and moist savanna habitats. It is generally considered to be an aggressive species of cobra, and bites are life threatening due to the potency of its venom and the amount of venom it injects per bite.

The forest cobra is Africa's largest cobra and the largest of all the true cobra (Naja) species. The length of an average adult is 1.4 to 2.2 m (4.6 to 7.2 ft), but they may attain lengths of 2.7 m (8.9 ft), and lengths up to 3.1 m (10 ft) are also possible in rare cases. The head of this snake is large, broad, flattened and is slightly distinct from the neck. It is a slightly depressed, tapered and moderately thick-bodied snake with a slender tail of medium length. The body is compressed dorsoventrally and subcylindrical posteriorly. The forest cobra has long cervical ribs capable of expansion to form a long, wedge-shaped hood when threatened. The canthus is distinct, while the snout is rounded. Its eyes are medium in size with round pupils. The dorsal scales are smooth, very shiny and glossy and are strongly oblique. The colour of this species is variable, with three main colour morphs. Those from the forest or forest fringe, from Sierra Leone east to western Kenya and south to Angola, are glossy black, the chin, throat and anterior regions of the belly are cream or white, with broad black cross-bars and blotches. The sides of the head are strikingly marked with black and white, giving the impression of vertical black and white bars on the lips. The second colour morph, from the west African savanna, is banded black and yellow, with a black tail, the head is brownish-yellow on top, the lips, chin and throat are yellow. The third colour morph, from the coastal plain of east Africa, south to KwaZulu-Natal, inland to Zambia and soutern Democratic Republic of Congo, is brownish or blackish-brown above, paler below, the belly is yellow or cream, heavily speckled with brown or black, and specimens from the southern part of its range have black tails. Melanistic (all black) specimens have been documented from west Africa.

Dorsal scales on the midbody number 19-21, ventral scales are 201-214 in number, and the subcaudal scale is paired. Subcaudal scales number 63-72, and the anal plate is single. Upper labials number seven (sometimes eight): upper labials to the eye - 3 + 4, preoculars one or two, postoculars three or two, lower labials eight, and temporals varying.