Keep calm in the face of a black spitting cobra - News - Gondwana Collection

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Keep calm in the face of a black spitting cobra

Avatar of inke inke - 27. August 2019 - Environment

A black spitting cobra, spotted in Gondwana Kalahari Park. Photo: Lance Rentel

Dirk Heinrich

The southern parts of the country are home to the black spitting cobra (Naja nigricincta woodi), a snake which prefers dry riverbeds and an arid environment with ample hiding places. It grows up to two metres long and is a subspecies of the western barred spitting cobra (Naja nigricincta nigricincta), popularly known as zebra snake. Like any snake, the black spitting cobra tries to escape when threatened, but if it feels cornered it rises into a typical cobra pose and can accurately spit its venom into the eye of the perceived intruder up to two metres away. This is possible because the opening at the front of the two fangs is not a round hole but a slightly curved gap, and the pressure with which the venom is ejected gives it a spin. Thus the venom can cover a considerable distance in a given direction.

The poison is cytotoxic, i.e. it destroys tissue, and there is no serum against bites by this snake species. When encountering a black spitting cobra one should behave with utmost composure – as with all snakes – and withdraw slowly. This species feeds on small mammals, reptiles, bird eggs and young birds as well as frogs. A black spitting cobra caught in the roof of the farmhouse on Farm Gras had eaten several bats. These snakes are active both in the day and at night.

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