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SSSSSNAKE! Be informed and prepared – Part 3

In our new monthly column, we will look at different snakes holidaymakers may encounter at ATKV resorts … This week we look at ATKV Klein-Kariba.

Klein-Kariba is situated in the Waterberg District in Limpopo, and as in the case of the two previous resorts that we looked at, here you will also find slithery friends you should look out for. Some of the species (the mamba, boomslang, puff adder and berg adder) have already been discussed in our previous articles. You can visit our website to learn more about them. A common specie in Limpopo, however, is the cobra!

According to Win de Wet, resort manager at ATKV Klein-Kariba, the most common snakes at the resort are the black mamba, puff adder, Bushveld cobra, and Mozambique spitting cobra. There are also plenty pythons that are often seen, but they are not dangerous. “During my 12 years at the resort there have been isolated cases where people who tried to handle these snakes, were bitten.” 

There are 78 different snake species in Limpopo, of which 37 species are harmless, 9 species’ bite is painful but not deadly, and 7 can potentially be deadly. 

For more information about the types of snake venom, as well as what to do in the case of a snake bite, please visit our previous article on snakes at ATKV Drakensville by clicking here. 

If you are staying at Klein-Kariba and you are interested in snakes, do visit the nearby Makopa Reptile Park. There you can view various reptiles from Australia, South America and North Africa. There is even a Koala bear and an Albino Burmese python. You can view demonstrations and also visit the tea garden and curio shop. 

The following venomous snakes are common to the Klein-Kariba area and visitors should be aware.

Egyptian cobra/Bushveld cobra/Snouted cobra (Naja annulifera)

Venom: Neurotoxic and Cytotoxic 

Classification: Very dangerous

Length: 2.5 m 

Occurrence: Limpopo, Lowveld and Bushveld

The Bushveld cobra is known for hunting during the day and prefers mice, rats and frogs. The snake is not aggressive, but will not hesitate to bite if it feels threatened. Luckily, biting incidents are quite rare. Like the rinkhals, this snake can also pretend to be dead. It is often confused with the Mozambique spitting cobra, but cannot spit or spray its venom. Like the mamba species, it can reach the age of 20 years. It is often found in hollowed termite heaps, and will stay there for years if not disturbed. 

Interesting fact about this cobra: This snake also eats other snakes, and even the feared puff adder is not safe! 

Myth about this snake: It is said that Queen Cleopatra let this snake bite her to cause her death. 

Mozambique spitting cobra (Naja mossambica)

Venom: Cytotoxic

Classification: Very dangerous

Length: 1 m to 1.8 m

Occurrence: Gauteng, Limpopo, North West and Mozambique

This snake is responsible for most of the serious snake bite incidents in South Africa, but fortunately incidents are scarce. The Mozambique spitting cobra can spit or spray its venom accurately up to 2 to 3 m. The snake is very active during the night and it is not rare for people to be bitten in their beds. Especially in rural areas of Swaziland where people sleep on grass mats, these snakes can become a pest. Like the snouted cobra, you can also find it in dry river beds and hollowed tree trunks. The cobra’s venom can be compared with that of the American Mojave rattlesnake. 

Interesting fact about the Mozambique spitting cobra: The snake had been documented for the first time in 1854 by Wilhelm Peters, a German scientist.

Myth about this snake: If the Mozambique spitting cobra’s spit come into contact with your skin, your skin will form blisters. The truth is that its venom is only dangerous if you are hit in the eyes. In that case you should immediately rinse your eyes with water.

Bird snake/Vine snake/Twig snake (Thelotornis capensis)

Venom: Hemotoxic 

Classification: Very dangerous

Length: 1.2 m to 1.5 m

Occurrence: Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal

The bird snake is perfectly camouflaged and is seldom seen while it is lying dead still, waiting for its prey of lizards, frogs, other snakes and occasionally birds. Bird snakes have different patterns and colour varieties. Colours vary from white to grey with small black dots over its body. As they age, orange markings appear on their heads and the patterns on their bodies become more complex – making them look like branches. The death of world-renowned herpetologist, Robert Wilhelm Mertens, was caused by a bird snake, which he had kept as a pet. There is no anti-venom for the bite of a bird snake. 

Interesting fact about the bird snake: The Zulu people believe that this snake’s bite hurts the same as being attacked by a spear, because of the speed of the bite. 

Myth about the bird snake: The snake attracts birds with its bright orange tongue. This is, however, not true.