About the Forest Cobra / Boskroba
Naja melanoleuca Hallowell
Length: Adults average 1.5 to 2m, reaching a maximum length of 2.7m.
Colour: Head, neck and forepart of body usually yellowish brown, heavily flecked in black, becoming darker to shiny black posteriorly, sometimes with speckling. Below, creamy white to yellow, often with darker blotches.
Distribution: Forested areas of Eastern Natal from just south of the Tugela river mouth northwards through Mozambique and eastern Zimbabwe.
Field Notes: This is one of our largest cobras and is normally associated with closed-canopy coastal forest in Natal and Zululand and forested regions (not coastal) further north. An active, alert snake that climbs well and is equally at home in water. Through primarily nocturnal, like most cobras it is fond of basking. If disturbed, the forest cobra is quick to disappear into dense thickets, but if molested will spread a narrow hood and bite readily. It gives the impression of being much more intelligent than most other African cobras. It is often mistaken for the black mamba, but can be distinguished from the latter by its highly polished dorsal scales.
Food: Feeds on toads, frogs, small mammals, birds and snakes. Also takes slow moving fish.
Reproduction: Oviparous, laying about 15 but as many as 26 eggs, each measuring 60x30mm. The young average 38cm in length.
Venom: Potent neurotoxic (nerve-destroying). Because of its restricted distribution and shy habits, bites are virtually unheard of in this country.
First aid procedure:
1. Immobilise and reassure patient. Patient must be kept quiet and made to lie down.
2. Apply pressure bandage immediately and immobilise extremity with a splint to minimise the spread of venom.
3. Keep the throat clear of saliva. Artificial respiration may be life saving until such time as medical treatment becomes available.
4. Transport promptly to hospital.
With thanks to Johan Marais for allowing us to use the snake information in his book “Snake Versus Man”.