A South China snake breeder has given a two-headed cobra to Nanning Zoo. The 10-day old cobra is around 20 centimetres long and has shed its skin already, said snake experts at the zoo.
However, the dark-brown reptile which was born on a snake farm in Yulin, China, has not eaten yet nor drunk any water. Scientists are hoping it could grow to a length of around 1.2 metres, but vets are concerned that it might not live as it has not yet begun to eat on its own. There are also worries about its low resistance to infection.
Because each head has its own brain, the two halves can move independently of each other, and Nanning Zoo experts say the two heads often come together, as if they are going to fight.
Li Keqi, snake keeper at Nunning Zoo, said: "The snake has been alive for 10 days now and has been with us for two, during which time it has already changed its skin once.
"But even though the snake is stable condition now, there is no way of telling whether it will be able to live on, as it still does not eat or drink water."
Most two-headed snakes have short lifespans of just a few weeks although a two-headed rat snake is recorded as living for 20 years.
Huang, who has been breeding snakes for ten years in Yulin, said this was the first time he had ever seen a two-headed cobra. He carried out an examination of the snake which he found to have separate brains, heart, eyes and tongues.
The Chinese cobra is a highly venomous and although not a spitting cobra, some specimens are capable of ejecting venom towards a threat within a distance of two metres.
Victims of Chinese cobra bites experience redness and swelling as well as blisters and necrosis. Necrosis is a serious problem in cases of cobra bite as it may persist for many years after the recovery of the victim. Fatalities can occur although rare as the antivenom is widely available.