Forest Cobra

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Steve Slater

Is the Forest Cobra right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Black and White Cobra

Scientific name: Naja melanoleuca

The basics:
Even among a group known for their speed, intelligence and aggression, the often strikingly-marked Forest Cobra stands out. Zookeepers and herpetologists consider it one of the most dangerous cobras to work with – keeping one as a “pet” should of course be out of the question!

The Forest Cobra is found throughout much of Africa south of the Sahara, from Mali to Sudan and south to Angola and South Africa.

Highly adaptable, it may be found in thorn scrub, savannas, rain forests, open forests, plantations, mangrove swamps, and village outskirts. Forest Cobras forage equally well on land, water or in trees.

Appearance / health:
Color and pattern varies widely, with some populations being banded in black and yellow, while others are solid glossy black or brownish-black. The Forest Cobra is slender in build and reaches 1.4 - 3.1 meters (4.6-10 ft) in length.

Zoo specimens often live outlive other cobras, with one specimen having reached age 35.

Behavior / temperament:
Forest Cobras are even more alert and quick to “take offense” than are other cobras. Their agility, speed, and aggressive natures render daily care especially difficult and dangerous. Most zoos utilize shift cages in order to limit the possibility of bites.

It is impossible for a private snake owner to adequately prepare for or treat a venomous snakebite, or, prior to a bite, to arrange for treatment in a hospital.

Forest Cobras actively hunt for frogs, fish, lizards, snakes, bird eggs, and squirrels and other mammals. Zoo animals are fed rats and mice.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

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