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The Red Spitting Cobra (Naja pallida)

If I were forced to choose a favorite spitting cobra, I would enthusiastically choose the red spitting cobra (Naja pallida), a swift-moving hunter which inhabits the dry scrub-land of East Africa.  A small cobra measuring less than 120 centimeters (4 feet), the cobra hunts for small mammals and reptiles. The lovely snake can be found in a range of ruddy hues including deep orange, pale red, pinkish and light brown– but the fanciest and loveliest specimens are a dramatic blood red.  Although the name makes the red spitting cobra sound uncouth, the designation is actually a misnomer. Red spitting cobras do not wander around spitting like rustic bumpkins in a cowpoke bar, instead they carefully and deliberately spray a high velocity jet of toxins into a predator’s eyes (let’s see the bumpkin try that!). The red spitting cobra is not aggressive, but if provoked it will rear up, hiss loudly, and flare its cobra hood.  If, after receiving this warning, the provocateur stupidly continues to antagonize the snake, the cobra is likely to spray venom directly into its antagonist’s face and eyes.  A direct ocular hit can cause permanent blindness (and is certain to cause stupendous searing pain).

As with most cobras, the venom of the spitting cobra contains a mixture of neurotoxic and cytotoxic compounds. The red-spitting cobra rarely bites predators or people (reserving its poison for hunting and spraying).  However if you somehow manage to find one of these rare snakes which live in the arid wastelands of East Africa and then provoke it into biting you, you should seek treatment immediately!

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