Dealing with a rare wildlife crime: Lethal cobra bite baffles experts

A young cobra has enough venom, fully developed fangs and a poison delivery system sufficient enough to kill an adult.  

Investigators are looking into the various aspects of the alleged murder of a young woman in Kollam where a common cobra was reportedly used to lend a lethal bite to the victim by her husband recently.

Though the post-mortem of the common cobra is commonly carried out by forest veterinarians in wildlife crime cases, it was probably for the first time that a post-mortem was carried out in connection with a murder case. The post-mortem analysis was primarily focussed on the identification of the species of the reptile.

Hood intact

As the hood of the snake was obtained almost intact, the confirmation of the species was possible by identifying the spectacled hood, a unique feature of the species, which is also known as Indian spectacled cobra, said Kishore Kumar, a forest veterinarian.

It was an adult snake of 152 cm length. The animal might have been killed by a deadly blow on its hood.

The carcass was available for post-mortem after nearly 20 days of its death. Yet, the scales and skin could be obtained, said Dr. Kumar, who had participated in the post-mortem.

The samples collected from the carcass has been preserved in four solutions — brine, normal saline, ethyl alcohol and formaldehyde — for any future analysis.

Though wildlife crimes involving the capture and trade of snakes and snake venom are widely reported, rarely has any offence committed using snakes been reported, said Jose Louise, an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) expert in snakes.

In one such instance in Madhya Pradesh, suspicions over a murder committed using a snake had surfaced.

However, the case faded away for want of evidence. In the Kerala case, a common cobra (Naja naja), which is commonly found across the State, was allegedly used to commit the alleged murder.

The victim, it was reported, was earlier bitten by Russell's viper, another commonly found snake in the State, said Mr. Louise.

Death could happen within two hours of a cobra bite.


The venom, a neurotoxic one, could cause asphyxiation and multiple organ failure in the victims. If provoked, the snake could inflict a potential bite, leading to painful death, said Dr. Kumar.

Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jun 15, 2021 7:30:33 AM |

Next Story