December 10, 2007

World’s Largest Spitting Cobra Discovered in Kenya

The world's largest spitting cobra has been discovered in Kenya, according to a conservation group, WildlifeDirect.

The newly described snake species, which measures up to 15 feet long, was named Naja Ashei after James Ashe, founder of a snake farm on Kenya's coast where the cobra is found.

"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, a group that promotes wildlife protection through blogs by rangers and conservationists.

Spitting cobra 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.

Spitting cobra can also deliver venom by biting.

Ten species of spitting cobra are currently known.

The WildlifeDirect website allows visitors to donate money directly to conservation efforts in the wild.

Wildlife Direct says that while the conservation status of Naja Ashei -- commonly called the Large Brown Spitting Cobra -- is not presently known, poisonous snakes are usually killed on sight in East Africa.

"A large venomous snake is very often killed on site with no regard to their position in the food chain and other ecological issues," said Royjan Taylor, who posts on WildlifeDirect's.

"I hope that the publicity of this new find can be directed to the public in such a way that the conservation of its species as well as other snakes can be brought to light and hopefully have a positive impact."

Originally published by KBC Online text website, Nairobi, in English 10 Dec 07.

(c) 2007 BBC Monitoring Africa. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.