If you're wondering which snake rules the rainforests of Southeast Asia, take a gander at this king cobra striking out at a reticulated python on a nature trail not far from Singapore's urban sprawl. 


"So this happened right by where I live on the MacRitchie North Trail. Nature is awesome," wrote local resident Sheldon Trollope when uploading the video, noting that the footage was actually captured by his neighbour.

A stretch of tropical rainforest just minutes from the urban jungle, the MacRitchie Reservoir Park is popular with tourists, hikers and joggers – and the local wildlife. 

A python meal is not unusual for Asia's king cobras. Their genus name Ophiophagus comes from the Greek for "snake-eating", and it's a nod to their favourite food: the cobras feed almost exclusively on other snakes, mostly non-venomous species like pythons and rat snakes.  

The longest of all venomous snakes – reaching up to 18 feet (5.5m) – king cobras pack a highly toxic bite, which delivers a huge amount of venom (enough to bring down an elephant). The species does prefer to stick to deep forest cover, however, and sightings like this one are rare.

According to The Straits Times, who interviewed Trollope about the encounter, onlookers said the python later died from the cobra's bite. 

"There is no evidence that pythons are resistant to cobra venom, and the time that a snake takes to kill its prey will depend to a large extent on the amount of venom injected," notes herpetologist and author Johan Marais. "What often happens is that the snake is disturbed and abandons its prey. This could well have been the case here."

When it comes to snake-eating habits, Asia's king cobras are not unique. Cobra species in Africa also have a taste for their own kind. "In South Africa, snouted cobras prey heavily on puff adders, and we have seen a few cases where the venom took more than a day to kill the puff adder," says Marais. "But it is not unusual for snakes to swallow their food while still alive."

Both reticulated pythons and king cobras are indigenous to Singapore, and this isn't the first time we've seen the two snake species clash. Back in 2015, staff and students at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University witnessed a king cobra wrestling with a reticulated python on a campus sidewalk:



Top header image: Rahul Alvares/Flickr