A Guide To The Cobras Of South Africa.

There are 5 species of true cobras of the genus Naja that are found in South Africa, of these 5 species only two are capable of spitting or spraying their venom.

SNOUTED COBRA – NAJA ANNULIFERA 

The Snouted Cobra commonly referred to as the Wipneuskobra or Bosveldkapel in Afrikaans.
A highly venomous cobra which can reach lengths of over 2.5m and posses a dangerous toxic combination of cytotoxic and neurotoxic venom. Occurring in various shades of sandy brown, dark brown with juveniles having a distinctive black band on the throat which fades with age, as well as a distinctive banded form in certain parts of its distribution. These snakes can be found in Northern Kwa-Zulu Natal, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Limpopo and the North West.

 

BROWN FOREST COBRA – NAJA SUBFULVA

The Forest Cobra is easily one of Africa’s most impressive cobras which can reach over 2.7m.
Like the Snouted Cobra the venom is a combination of both neurotoxic and cytotoxic. Mostly found in dense forests where it is a formidable climber spending most of its time in the trees. A shy snake and will move off quickly when encountered although will put on an impressive display making a narrow hood and standing its ground until the threat has passed.

Forest Cobras have a small distribution on South Africa and can be found along the coastal belt in Kwa-Zulu Natal north of Balito into Zululand.

MOZAMBIQUE SPITTING COBRA – NAJA MOSSAMBICA

The Mozambique Spitting Cobra or Mosambiekse spoegkobra as its referred to in Afrikaans.

Is one of the only two snakes that can spit/spray its venom in South Africa. If the venom enters the eyes it causing intense burning and should be rinsed out with any bland liquid as soon as possible. The venom itself is a potently cytotoxic and causes devastating effects on the human body, large scale tissue damage and extreme pain and together with the Puff Adder is responsible for the most dangerous bites in South Africa. A relatively small cobra which reaches just over 1.8m. They may vary in colour from a sandy brown, grey with  black and orange/salmon bands on the throat.

The Mozambique Spitting Cobra is common throughout most of its range and can be found in a wide array of habitats. From throughout KZN, into Mpumalanga Limpopo, North West and Gauteng.

BLACK SPITTING COBRA – NAJA NIGRICINCTA WOODI

Photo: Bryan Maritz

The Black Spitting Cobra and commonly called Swartspoegslang or Swartspoegkobra in Afrikaans.

The second of the spitting cobras in South Africa that is able to spit/spray its venom. Which shares the venom make up of most of the cobras previously mentioned potently cytotoxic. Their colour is unmistakable jet black all around with an impressive black hood when threatened. These snakes are nervous and quick to escape however when cornered they will stand their ground and spread a narrow hood.

The Black Spitting Cobra is one of the rarer or uncommonly seen species of cobra in South Africa as they favour the dry arid regions of the West Coast, Cederberg Mountains and Namaquland in the Northern Cape.

CAPE COBRA – NAJA NIVEA

The Cape Cobra referred to Kaapse Kobra or Koper Kapel in Afrikaans.

Cape Cobras are well known to be the more potently venomous species of Cobra in Africa. They may reach lengths of over 2m, one of the most variable species of cobra and can come in an array of colours form almost black, dark brown, bright yellow, pale yellow as well as highly speckled variety depending where they are found. In contrast to the other four species of cobra the Cape Cobra has a potently neurotoxic venom which can cause to catastrophic respiratory failure and cardiac arrest in bites.

The Cape Cobra can be found across the Cape provinces, into the Free State and entering the North West Province.

Thank you to Bryan Maritz for the generous use of the Black Spitting Cobra photograph.

by Tyrone Ping

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