New Delhi: The King Cobra, world`s longest venomous snake found predominantly in Indian rain forests, is increasingly threatened due to loss of habitat and over-exploitation for medicinal purposes.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has included the King Cobra in its latest "Red List of Threatened Species".
Rain forests in the Western Ghats, which receives high annual rainfall, is the home of the much respected and feared King Cobra, which is also a powerful and ancient religious icon in India.
Indonesia and the Philippines are also home to these majestic and ecologically valuable snakes, which average at 3 to 4 m in length and typically weigh about 6 kg.
"The world`s largest venomous snake, the King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), is listed as vulnerable due to loss of habitat and over-exploitation for medicinal purposes," says the IUCN Red List.
It shows that 10 per cent of snakes endemic to China and South East Asia are threatened with extinction.
Snakes are used in traditional medicines and anti-venom serum as food and are a source of income from the sale of skins.
Nearly 43 per cent of the endemic snake species in South East Asia in the endangered and vulnerable categories are threatened by unsustainable use.
The Burmese Python (Python bivittatus), best-known in the West as an invasive species in the Florida Everglades, is also listed as vulnerable in its native range, with trade and over-exploitation for food and skins, especially in China and Vietnam, being the main threats to the species.
Despite its designation as a protected species in China, populations there show no evidence of recovery, and illegal harvesting continues, says the IUCN.