Wicked Reptiles

Our Reptile House is home to hundreds of different reptiles. Out of these, five top predators emerge as our most wicked reptiles. Our Head of Reptiles keeper has personally selected these cold-blooded hunters as the deadliest predators in our collection. Each has its own way of striking so find out what makes each so wicked…

A Taipan at ZSL London Zoo

Inland taipan

Location: Black soil plans in Queensland and South Australia regions

With enough venom to kill over 150,000 rats, the Inland taipan (also known as the fierce snake) is considered to be the world’s most venomous snake. Fierce in name but not in nature, the Inland taipan is a docile snake who rarely attacks humans. However, the taipan’s food of choice – small rodents, mammals, and birds – is not so lucky. Because the snake lives in the Australian outback, food is often scare and hard to come by, so when the taipan does find prey it has to make sure every bite counts. Striking with deadly accuracy, the snake delivers a fatal dose of its highly toxic venom to its prey. The venom’s blood clotting agents stop the body’s blood flow, while neurotoxins immobilise the muscles. Once bitten, all the Inland taipan has to do is stay close to its victim and wait for dinner to be served.

Komodo Dragon

Komodo dragon

Location: The Komodo National Park located in Indonesia

Meet the largest living lizard in the world. Growing over 3 metres in length and weighing over 140kg, the Komodo dragon certainly lives up to its medieval namesake. From deer and pigs, to even water buffalo and wild horses – the Komodo dragon will literally eat anything they can over-power. Using its natural camouflage, the Komodo dragon waits for its prey in tall grass. When a victim wanders over, the komodo springs forward, using its large claws and teeth to attack. A komodo dragon’s mouth is lined with over 60 teeth that grow up to an inch long and create a serrated jaw like that of a saw.

If the victim is able to escape the Komodo dragon’s deadly strike, the dragon has a hidden weapon up its sleeve. The mouth of the Komodo dragon contains up to 50 strains of virulent bacteria that set about infecting any bite the Komodo dragon may have landed. As the prey runs to safety, the Komodo dragon tracks its movements allowing the bacteria to take effect. Within the week the victim has died from infection and the Komodo dragon has been waiting close by for the feast. Eating flesh, hoof, horn and bone, a Komodo dragon can eat up to 80% of its own body weight in one sitting.

Green anaconda

Green anaconda

Location: South America, areas surrounding the Amazon River Basin

Is the largest snake in the world, capable of growing over 29 feet and weighing over 227 kg! To support this body weight, it spends most of its time in and around the waters of South America. The anaconda uses its superb camouflage to blend into its surroundings and waits for prey to come to it. Part of the reason anaconda’s reach such monstrous sizes is down to its diet, they’ll eat anything from deer, birds, turtles, capybara, caimans, and even jaguars! Once their prey comes into range, the anaconda latches on with 6 rows of teeth and coils its body around its meal. Every time the prey exhales, the anaconda tightens its grip, restricting blood flow to the prey’s heart and causing cardiac arrest. Once its prey is dead, the anaconda will start to swallow its meal whole by dislocating its lower jaw. It can take up to six hours for an anaconda to full ingest its meal and a further two weeks for it to digest. Usually, an anaconda is able to go over a month between meals.

King cobra

King Cobra

Location: Ranges from India through Southeast Asia

The cobra has been seen throughout history as a mystical creature in both legend and lore. The cobra’s iconic hood is actually used to make the snake appear bigger to predators, created through the snake’s ability to expand its ribs. While the cobra’s main diet is mice and rats, it does enjoy some treats that veer on the cannibalistic – other snakes. Because the cobra possesses weak eyesight, it locates its prey by using its tongue to pick up air molecules that tell the cobra where its next meal is hiding. Once it finds its prey, the cobra strikes. With two short non-retractable fangs, the cobra is always ready to bite. The venom attacks the repository system, leading to suffocation. Most cobra bites take up to 12 hours to prove fatal, yet the king cobra can bring down large prey in less than 30 minutes. Once killed, the cobra will then start to swallow its meal whole.

Philippine crocodile

Philippine crocodile

Location: Islands of the Philippines

Typically smaller than their cousins, the Philippine crocodile grows up to 3 metres in length. They can be found in marshes, ponds, creeks and rivers around the Philippines, and have been roaming the earth for over 84 million years.  Hunting everything from snakes, birds, fish and small mammals, the crocodile will camouflage itself almost perfectly into its environment.  As the crocodile can go weeks without food, this is a reptile who doesn’t mind waiting for its meal, in fact they’re designed for it. With their nostrils and eyes positioned on the top of their heads, they can spy on prey while keeping the rest of their body hidden under water. During the day they bask in the sun, warming their cold blood and conserving energy. At night, they have a reflective layer in the back of their eye that acts like the lenses on night vision goggles, refracting light twice and allowing them to see victims clearly. Even their scales help them make the kill; the scales hold cells that some scientists believe acts as motion sensors allowing the croc to feel vibrations in water and on land, alerting it to a future target. Once the crocodile moves in stealthy for the kill, it leaps out of the water and uses bone splitting jaw strength to draw its prey under water for dinner time.­­