As I’m sitting here thinking what I should write about, one of the waiters call my name from reception. As I rush over the first words leaving his lips is “mfezi”. Any ranger working in the bush knows that the word “mfezi” is bad news, as it is one of our more venomous snakes, the Mozambique Spitting Cobra.

In color the snake is slate to olive grey, olive or tawny brown above, with some or all scales black-edging. Below, salmon pink to purple yellowish, with black bars across the neck and ventral speckled or edged with brown or black. Young specimens sometimes have pink or yellow bars on the throat. I can see this is a young specimen, which means that they are more aggressive and don’t know how to control their venom glands, meaning that a bite could be fatal. After running around and grabbing the right equipment, I’m now standing facing the snake working out my strategy.

When confronted at close quarters this snake 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 meters with remarkable accuracy. The Mozambican Spitting Cobra it can spit its venom by means of contracting muscles around the venom glands. Its bite causes severe local tissue destruction and venom to the eyes can also cause impaired vision or blindness.

Keeping all of the above in mind I gently slide the snake tongs in under the snake and grasp it lightly not to cause any damage to the body. Moving slowly down to the dry riverbed I release the Cobra to live another day. So why not kill the snake you may ask? Snakes in the African bush play a very important role in our ecosystem, and by killing them we upset the balance. Snakes keep all sorts of vermin species numbers low, and should we interfere these animals will start to dominate. Snakes are scary, but if we leave them alone they will always try and stay away from you as far as possible.

So after a successful release and without any snake bites, watching the last of the lightning on the horizon after a lovely thunderstorm. Just another day in the office…

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