Spitting Cobra

As its name indicates, this snake has a particularly effective method of defence. When it feels threatened, the spitting cobra rises up in typical cobra fashion, extending its hood, which is quite narrow by cobra standards. Holding its head high off the ground, it then spits large quantities of venom over a distance of more than 2 m (6.5 ft), aiming for the attacker's eyes.

The colour of spitting cobras is very variable. Individuals may be red, yellow, pinkish or steely grey. Cobras (members of the Naja genus) are a sizeable group associated more with Asia.

The venom is very potent, causing blindness if it does reach the eyes, and bites can be fatal to humans. These cobras, however, are very reluctant to bite, preferring a "spit-and-run" tactic, making off while their enemy's eyes are stinging. Of course, cobras do not hold back when they come across prey animals. These are rapidly killed by the powerful venom injected via the snake's fangs.

Adults are predominantly nocturnal, hiding inside termite hills, old logs or piles of leaves during the day. Young cobras are active during the day, and with good cause: adult cobras will eat them.

Distribution: Eastern and Central Africa from southern Egypt to northern Tanzania.

Habitat: Savannah grasslands.

Food: Amphibians, small mammals, birds, eggs and other reptiles.

Size: 0.7 - 1.5 m (2.25 - 5 ft).

Maturity: Not known.

Breeding: Clutches of up to 15 eggs.

Life span: 20 years.

Status: Common.

Gallery of Spitting Cobra