The Black and White Spitting Cobra (Naja siamensis)

The Black and White Spitting Cobra (Naja siamensis)

Before we start this article I would just like to point out that this beautiful species of cobra is for experienced reptile keepers ONLY and should not be kept by anyone who is under the age of 18 and who hasn’t had experience in keeping venomous reptiles. Keeping cobras is a huge responsibility, and it is up to you to make sure you know how to deal with these snakes, for the sake of your health, the snake’s health and for the sake of our hobby’s reputation in our country.

Introduction
The Black and White Spitting Cobra, which is also known as the Indochinese Spitting Cobra or Thai Spitting Cobra, has to be one of the more unusual and beautiful cobras when it comes to appearance. The body colour of this species is variable from grey to brown to black, with white spots or stripes. The white patterning can be so prolific that it covers the majority of the snake. This is a medium-sized cobra with a rather thick body. Adults average 0.9 to 1.2 meters long, and can reach a maximum of 1.6 metres, although this is very rare.

These cobras are found in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Burma. It occupies a range of habitats including lowlands, hills, plains, and woodland. It can also be found in jungle habitat and it is sometimes attracted to human settlements because of the abundant populations of rodents in and around these areas.

Venom
The Black and White Spitting Cobra venom is like that of most other spitting cobras. It is primarily a postsynaptic neurotoxin and cytotoxic (necrotizing or tissue-death). Bite symptoms include pain, swelling and necrosis around the wound. The bite of this snake is potentially lethal to an adult human. Deaths have been recorded and generally are a result of paralysis and consequent asphyxiation. Deaths mainly occur in rural areas where the antivenom is difficult to get.

If the snake spits venom into the eyes of an individual, the individual will experience immediate and severe pain as well as temporary and sometimes permanent blindness. As you can see, these cobras pack a punch and one cannot stress how careful and experienced you have to be to deal with these snakes.

Housing
All cobras are very active snakes and thus require space to move. When keeping Black and White Spitting Cobras, adults are best kept in large cages of about 2m long, 1m wide and 80cm high. This will ensure the well being of your active cobras. You will often find cobras that have battered faces and missing rostral scales have been kept in small enclosures that are not adequate for housing cobras. In order to prevent this also provide lots of hiding places. Your cobra must also never feel cornered in its enclosure; by preventing this you will minimize stress and ensure your cobra’s good health.

Heating will need to be provided in the form of a heat pad. These are inexpensive and can be purchased from most local pet stores and online on the online reptile shops. The heat pad can be placed in one of the back corners of the enclosure and can be set at 32°C. The other end of the enclosure will be cooler, allowing your snakes to choose the temperature where it is most comfortable. No special lighting will be needed in the enclosure as these snakes are nocturnal. Make sure you have a light plastic water bowl in the enclosure with clean water at all times. The reason for a light plastic water dish is so that it can removed with a grab stick, which is safer for the owner.

Cobras are a generally messy snake, therefore newspaper is a good substrate to use and it can be replaced easily and affordably. Plastic containers can be used as hides. Try to avoid clutter, as this can be dangerous for the keeper. Make sure that you can also see where your cobras are in their cage at all times. When moving your spitting cobras into a new enclosure, make sure that the front of the cage is covered until they have settled down. This will prevent your snake from spraying the glass full of venom and will give your snake a sense of security.

Whenever dealing with this species it is important to take proper safety measures. When dealing with this snake it is best to use a grab stick and hook stick, and it is important also wear eye protection. Black and White Spitting Cobras often do calm down in captivity, especially captive bred individuals, almost to the point where they rarely spit, although you should never take any chances. Some individuals can still be very eager to spit, and some say that it is specimens from certain localities that spit more often.

When it comes to feeding you can feed your cobra rodents and or day old chicks. Cobras are quite opportunistic when it comes to eating and will happily accept live and defrosted foods. Babies can be fed twice a week and adults can be fed once a week.

Breeding
Black and White Spitting Cobras can be bred at two years of age. For two to three months the heat can be turned off and maintained between 12 – 18°C. Do not feed during this time, only provide water. After this cooling period, slowly heat them up to normal temperatures and mating will begin. The snake is oviparous. The female will lay 13-19 eggs100 days after oviposition. Eggs will hatch after 48 to 70 days, depending on the temperature of incubation. Offspring are independent as soon as they have hatched. Hatchlings are 12–20 cm long and, because they possess fully developed venom delivery systems, should be treated with the same respect as adults!

 

Status

This species is listed as vulnerable on the basis that it has experienced high rates of decline throughout its range, estimated at over 50% in parts of its range and likely to be between 30-50% globally over the past 15-18 years, which equals three generations assuming a generation length of 5-6 years, and the cause of decline (overharvesting) has not ceased. This species is listed on Appendix II of CITES. In places the distribution of this species coincides with protected areas, probably providing small safeguards from high levels of harvesting. Further research into the harvest levels of this species is needed, as is population monitoring. It is a protected species in Vietnam, where it is listed as Endangered in the national Red Data Book (Dang et al. 2007). – http://www.iucnredlist.org

As mentioned, the Black and White Spitting Cobra is only for the serious venomous keepers and due to their spitting abilities it makes them a difficult snake to keep. That being said, they make a great addition to those who keep venomous snakes, especially cobras!

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