Monocled cobras are beautiful snakes that are widespread across South and Southeast Asia. They have an O-shaped, or monocellate hood pattern, which has the "spectacle" pattern (two circular ocelli connected by a curved line) on the rear of their hood. Young Monocled cobras may be yellow, brown, gray, or blackish in color, with or without ragged or clearly defined cross bands. They can be olivaceous or brownish to black above with or without a yellow or orange-colored, O-shaped mark on the hood. They have a black spot on the lower surface of the hood on either side and one or two black cross-bars on the belly behind it. The rest of the belly is usually the same color as the back, but paler. As age advances, the snake becomes paler, wherein the adult is brownish or olivaceous. The elongated nuchal ribs enable a cobra to expand the anterior of the neck into a “hood”. They also have a pair of fixed anterior fangs. Fangs of Monocled cobras are moderately adapted for spitting.
Monocled cobras are distributed from India in the west through to China, Vietnam, and Cambodia. They are also found on the Malay Peninsula and are native to Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos, Nepal, and Thailand. These cobras prefer habitats associated with water, such as paddy fields, swamps, and mangroves, but can also be found in grasslands, shrublands, and forests. They also occur in agricultural land and human settlements including cities.
Monocled cobras are terrestrial creatures. In rice-growing areas, they hide in rodent burrows in the dykes between fields and have become semi-aquatic in this type of habitat. These snakes lead a solitary life and are most active at dusk. They are often found in tree holes and areas where rodents are plentiful. When disturbed Monocled cobras prefer to take flight. However, when threatened they will raise the anterior portions of their bodies, spread their hood, usually hiss loudly, and strike in an attempt to bite and defend themselves. Some populations of the Monocled cobra have the ability to spit venom.
Monocled cobras are oviparous and egg-laying usually takes place from January through March. Females lay 16 to 33 eggs per clutch. The incubation period lasts around 55 to 73 days and during this time the females usually stay with the eggs.
Monocled cobras don't face major threats at present. However, in some countries, these snakes are harvested for the skin trade, food and for use in traditional medicine.
According to IUCN, the Monocled cobra is locally common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.
Monocled cobras play an important role in their ecosystem. They help to maintain the balance of prey species and control agricultural pests such as rats and mice.