Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

Demystifying the Cape Cobra

"Hi Sanbona team, especially ranger Rudi. By demystifying the fear and prejudice of people wronged by snakes...I would like to ask some questions: what size can the Cape cobra measure? Are they diurnal (active in the daytime) or nocturnal? Are the variety of colours related to differences in gender (male or female) or age? Thanks, Miriam Galembeck."

The average length of Cape cobra is thought to be around 1,5 meters, although I have personally caught some individuals pushing 2 meters. The region you find them in also plays a role to a certain extent, in the same way leopard sizes vary from region to region. In my experience, the biggest cobras are found on the south west coast and the Karoo. Another factor that does influence the size of cobra's and for that matter most reptiles is sex. Females are usually substantially larger than males.

As a species they are mostly diurnal. Encounters with this snake at night usually occur when humans stumble upon the area they settled in for the night. Being snakes they do not however rely on eye sight to hunt, though they are active hunters. Should an opportunity arise to hunt at night they will take it. However active hunting only takes place when it is light.

Cape cobras are found in a massive variety of colours and patterns, this has nothing to do with sex or age, but rather genetics. All the colour morphs they are found in act as vary effective camouflage in most terrain. It does also change through their lives. Most hatchling Cape cobras are yellow with a black band across their throat, a defence mechanism, as only spitting cobras carry this black band into adulthood. After their first molt they start to change colour and the appearance of that black band starts to fade. I hope this has answered your questions. Thank you for showing an interest in the Cape cobra, Miriam.

From Ranger Rudi

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