Snake of the week: The red spitting cobra (Naja pallida)

Blog 17 Jul 2020
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Photo: R Wilson

In honour of World Snake Day, 16th July, this week’s CSRI snake of the week is the red spitting cobra (Naja pallida). They are found in dry savannah and the semi-desert areas of East Africa. As with all cobras, they have long cervical ribs that can expand to form a hood when threatened. 

Their venom contains neurotoxins and cytotoxins, allowing them to feed on a variety of different prey. New research by CSRI’s PhD student Taline Kazandjian shows that their venom is also honed to produce enhanced pain when spat defensively at the eyes of aggressors.

Unfortunately defensive snakebites by this species are extremely common, and can cause tissue damage that results in life-long disability. In this BBC clip CSRI's Prof Nicholas Casewell helps colleagues at Kenya Snakebite Research and Intervention Centre catch and relocate a red spitting cobra from a village in Kitui County Kenya.