And the answer is …

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Dried Mozambique Spitting Cobra Venom!

Congratulations to everyone who got the correct answer and thanks for all the other “inventive” guesses.

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When I release captured snakes I usually place them in front of my GoPro to record the event. This small Cobra mistook the camera lens for an eye and targeted its venom accordingly (The picture shows her in “mid-spit”). Full marks for hitting the target 🙂 This was an excellent demonstration why it is very important to always wear protective goggles when dealing with a Spitting Cobra or any “unidentified” snake. Better safe than sorry.

These snakes are generally nervous and highly strung. When confronted at close quarters they spread their long narrow hoods and will readily “spit” in defense. By doing this the venom can be ejected at a distance of 2–3 metres (6½-10 feet), with remarkable accuracy. When in a confined area like a tube these reptiles might bite instead of spit.

From store room to freedom!

Watch the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yqY1be88CQ


This morning I had to “rescue” a Mozambique Spitting Cobra. This snake had lost her way into one of Thanda store rooms. Someone spotted it disappearing behind a cabinet in the room.

Lodge management called me to capture the snake and to remove it to a new home. First I had to empty out the cabinet (hundreds of cans and bottles :-)) to be able to move it and to get to the snake hidden behind.

Once the cabinet was out of the way the Cobra did, what Cobras do. It opened it’s hood and made hizzing sounds to scare me away. I used a “snake grabbing stick” to capture it (20 cm behind the head) and carried it out of the room holding it also by its tail.

Once safely lodged in a special snake barrel I drove the snake to one of Thanda’s waterholes. Thanks to Jarred Glasson, Thanda’s Head Guide, I have some images of me releasing the snake at its new home!

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More about Mozambique Spitting Cobra (Naja mossambica)…

It is native to Africa. The average length of adults is between 90cm – 105cm (3-3½ feet). This species prefers localities near water, to which it will readily take when disturbed. It is considered one of the most dangerous snakes in Africa. It can spit its venom. Its bite causes severe local tissue destruction. Venom to the eyes can also cause impaired vision or blindness. This cobra’s diet mainly consists of amphibians, other snakes, birds, eggs, small mammals, and even insects occasionally. This snake is nervous and highly strung. When confronted at close quarters it can rear up to as much as two-thirds of its length, spread its long narrow hood and will readily “spit” in defense, usually from a reared-up position. By doing this the venom can be ejected at a distance of 2-3 metres (6½-10 feet), with remarkable accuracy. The spitting cobra does bite depending on its environment and the situation it is in, and also feigns death to avoid further molestation.

Catching and Releasing a Mozambique Spitting Cobra!

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Well, a lot of you got it right! (see previous blog

I use these goggles when catching or releasing spitting snakes (or if I do know which snake I might encounter). In this case I caught a Mozambique Spitting Cobra (in Zulu:Mfezi) which had strayed into a room at Thanda house late at night.  Today I released it onto another part of the reserve.

This collage of images shows the release of the snake. Thanks to Warren Beets for taking the pictures (I could not take any myself – I was busy :-))

PS: I will add a GoPro camera to my equipment set so I can record these sort of procedures on video – from my view-point.

Cobras, Pythons, Boomslangs and Mambas

I had a very exciting day and I am very happy that I got my snake handling competency certificate. This morning started with working on various staged situations where I had to remove snakes from various places (Gardens, rooms and trees).

The first snake was a Puff Adder, followed by two Snouted Cobras and two very fast Mozambique Spitting Cobras (I had to catch these on the run!). In the afternoon I learned how to catch African Rock Pythons and how to get a Boomslang and a Black Mamba out of a tree.

One of the Khamai staff members took a few pictures of me working with the Python, the Boomslang and the Mamba (see below). In an assessment at the end of the course I had to capture two snakes (a Puff Adder and a Snouted Cobra) from a garden shed. I passed the assessment! I learned a lot and I hope that I will be able to help with needed snake captures once I am back in Kwazulu Natal. It was an excellent course.

 

 

Pictures (2): African Rock Python Capture

 

 

Picture: Boomslang Handling

 

 

Picture: Black Mamba Capture from a Tree

For more information on about reptile and snake handling courses go to www.khamai.co.za.

No Glass!

Puff Adder, Snouted Cobra, Boomslang and Black Mamba!

From my days at the Nashville Zoo I was used to see venomous snakes only from behind glass or from a great distance. During my first open-air session at Khamai Reptile Centre (www.khamai.co.za) I had some great encounters with a few venomous snakes. The snake handlers at Khamai were very competent and I learned a lot about the animals.

And I got some great photo opportunities. All pictures were taken from eye level (= me lying in the grass on my belly :-)). The only exception was the Black Mamba pictures which I took standing up during a feeding session. In the picture you only see the tail of the mouse, but you can see the black color of the mouth lining which gives the Black Mamba its name.

Today I already got to handle a Puff Adder. Tomorrow follows a full day of snake handling – I am looking forward to it.

PS: Rick, Heather, Dale and Steve from the Nashville Zoo: You would love it out here 🙂