Many snakes live in the world's tropical rain forest regions and lie in wait to envenom or constrict their prey. However, snakes are not the only predators in the rain forest and some of these predators include snakes in their diets. The list of these of predators include birds, mammals and even other snakes. Small and medium-sized snakes are the usual targets for predators, although large predators such as tigers and crocodiles will hunt any size of snake.
The red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is a bird-of-prey species found in a variety of habitats, including rain forests. However, these birds are not usually found in dense forests since much of their predation depends on being able to see their prey on the ground. Snakes are a part of the red-tailed hawk's diet. Usually, red-tailed hawks prey on small- to medium-sized snakes. As a bird-of-prey species, red-tailed hawks have sharp talons and beaks, which allow them to grasp and devour their prey with relative ease.
King Cobra Snake
One of the world's longest venomous snakes, the king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) is a predator of its fellow snakes. This snake's habit of eating other snakes earns it the name "king." As adults, king cobras grow between 12 to 18 feet in length. These snakes have fangs in their mouths, allowing them to inject venom into their prey. The venom paralyzes the prey, which makes it a non-resistant meal to the king cobra. King cobras live in tropical rain forests throughout Africa, India and Southeast Asia.
Tigers (Panthera genus) are large, carnivorous cats who prey on medium- to large-size snakes. In the rain forest, large snakes include black mambas and pythons. Most tiger species live in rain forest environments in India and Southeast Asia such as the Indochinese, Malayan, South China, Sumatran and Bengal species. Tigers always pounce on prey when their prey turns their back on them. All existing tigers species are endangered in their native habitat due to deforestation and overhunting.
The largest existing reptilian species is the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), a native to rain forests and saltwater estuaries in Southeast Asia and northern Australia. Some adult saltwater crocodiles grow over 20 feet in length. Young saltwater crocodiles will prey on smaller or medium-sized snakes, while adults pursue larger snake species. Saltwater crocodiles have narrow snouts and their eyes are closer together than other crocodilian species.
Although they are a small-sized mammal, mongooses (Herpestidae genus) are one of the primary predators of the king cobra snake in Africa, India and Southeast Asia. These 2-foot long animals use their quick reflexes to avoid the venom of the king cobra and other venomous snakes. Author Rudyard Kipling immortalized the mongoose's predation of king cobras in his fictional short story, "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi." Although they are found in various habitats, most mongooses dwell in the treetops of rain forests.
- San Francisco State University Department of Geography; Biogeography of Red-tailed Hawk; Jeff Garrigues; 2000
- Rochedale State School: King Cobra
- San Diego Zoo: Mammals -- Tiger
- University of Florida -- Florida Museum of Natural History; Saltwater Crocodile; Adam Britton
- National Geographic: Mongoose
- Photo Credit Anup Shah/Digital Vision/Getty Images