The rinkhals (Hemachatus haemachatus), also called the ringhals or ring-necked spitting cobra, is a species of venomous elapid found in parts of southern Africa. It is not a true cobra in that it does not belong to the genus Naja, but instead belongs to the monotypic genus Hemachatus. While rinkhals bear a great resemblance to true cobras they also possess some remarkable differences from these, resulting in their placement outside the genus Naja.
|Scientific classification |
Coloration varies throughout its distribution area, but a characteristic of the species is the belly is dark with one or two light-coloured crossbands on the throat. Their average length is 90–110 cm. Some individuals may have a mostly black body, while others are striped. Rinkhals scales are distinct from those of Naja cobras in that they are ridged and keel-like.
This species is found in the Western and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa, northeast through the Free State, Lesotho, Transkei, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, Western Swaziland, Mpumalanga and parts of Gauteng, South Africa. Recent evidence that it is found in Johannesburg proper and was found in Kempton Park . An isolated population is centered on Inyanga on the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border.
Behaviour and diet
Rinkhals are unique amongst African cobras in being ovoviviparous. They give birth to 20–35 live young, but as many as 65 young have been recorded.
The venom of the rinkhals is neurotoxic and partially cytotoxic, and is less viscous than that of other African elapids. When confronting a human, it generally aims its venom at the face. If the venom enters the eyes, it causes great pain.
Symptoms of a bite
Local symptoms of swelling and bruising is reported in about 25% (a quarter) of cases. General symptoms of drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, violent abdominal pain, cramps and vertigo often occur, as does a mild pyrexial reaction.
If distressed, the rinkhals spreads its hood, showing its distinctive, striped neck. It is a spitting cobra, and can spray its venom up to 2.5 m. Its spitting mechanism is primitive and it has to rear up and fling its body forward to spray its venom. It is also known to fake death by rolling onto its back with its mouth agape.
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