A medium-sized, slender snake, becoming robust when large. Adults can grow up to 1,95 m long. The head is distinct from the neck and temporal area is broad. Eye is medium with a round pupil and the iris orange-brown. The colour of the snake is light- to dark-brown, some scales edged in black. The skin between scales are black, giving it a fish-net stocking appearance. The belly is light pink to creamy or yellow but sometimes heavily mottled towards tail. The throat has 1 – 3 irregular black bands. The dorsal scales are smooth and shiny in 23 – 25 rows at mid-body. The subcaudal scales are paired and the anal shield is entire.
Fixed front fangs, modified with L-shaped canal that exists on front of fang, enabling snake to defensively spray venom towards it’s attacker’s eyes.
Venom can be ejected from a raised position or from the ground without rearing up. Lunging forward is not necessary, as snake simply gapes the mouth and sprays venom towards the attacker. Effective jet-range for adult snakes is 1.8 – 3.0 m with wind speed playing an active role in propelling venom through the air.
Potent cytotoxic- and weak neurotoxic properties. The cytotoxin causes extensive, usually superficial, skin and subcutaneous tissue destruction. Venom in eyes causes extreme pain and should immediately be washed out with copious amounts of water to prevent permanent damage and blindness which after medical attention must be sought as soon as possible. The lethal dose for an adult is 50 mg and the venom yield is 80 – 250 mg, averaging 150 mg.
Some victims may have multiple bites. Snake may be rolled on by victims sleeping on the floor or they may mistake human body-heat for that of prey. Bites can be anywhere on the body, not just on the extremities as in typical snakebites. Bites on back of hand or top of foot result in bone-exposure, requiring skin grafts and prolonged hospitalization. Anti-venom is effective up to 6 hours after bite, but after this, major damage would already have occurred. Repair is surgically performed in a hospital theater. Neurological symptoms are limited to drowsiness in adults, but children are at a higher risk of dying from the neurotoxin. Domestic animals and pets often present with venom in eyes. Most common injury to dogs is venom in the eyes when dogs attack these cobras. Polyvalent anti-venom is available.
Rocky savanna or lowland forest. Inhabits hollow logs or termite mounds near water.
The snake is very common and often implicated in snakebite in KZN and Mpumalanga. They can be diurnal on overcast days but become more active towards evening. Their prey includes frogs, toads, rodents, birds and their eggs and nestlings, as well as other snakes, including their own species. They are often found around human habitation and a common pest at game lodges. Most common encounter is venom in the eyes.
Reproduces by egg-laying.