The world’s largest spitting cobra has just been discovered in Kenya. According to WildlifeDirect, a conservation group working in Kenya to promote wildlife protection, the newly described snake species measures up to 15 feet.
The snake was named Naja ashei, after the late James “Jimmy” Ashe, founder of the Bio-Ken snake farm and research centre in Watamu at the Kenya Coast where the cobra was found. James was the first person to catch a larger-than-normal spitting cobra in the 1960s and suggest it belonged to a different species.
“A new species of giant spitting cobra is exciting and reinforces the obvious – that there have to be many other unreported species but hundreds are being lost as their habitats disappear under the continued mismanagement of our planet,” said Kenyan environmentalist Richard Leakey, founder of WildlifeDirect.
Naja ashei was discovered in June 2004 and initially included under the black-necked spitting cobra species. It is only this year that he was confirmed as a separate species. WildlifeDirect says the conservation status of this cobra commonly known as the Large Brown Spitting Cobra is not presently known.
Poisonous snakes like Naja ashei are usually killed on sight in East Africa. This particular snake produces 6.2 millilitres of liquid venom, which is among the largest amounts of venom ever extracted from a snake at a single milking.
Spitting cobras are snakes capable of spitting or ejecting venom from their mouth when defending themselves against predators. While the venom is harmless to intact skin, contact with the eyes can cause blindness.
A Spitting cobra can also deliver venom by biting. Ten species of spitting cobra are currently known in the world with 5 resident in Africa. Naja ashei brings the African number to 6.
This discovery is a major one in science and echoes the fact that nature is yet still to shock us. Now scientists are busy trying to develop an anti-venom for Naja ashei bites.