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Naja nivea
General Details, Taxonomy and Biology, Venom, Clinical Effects, Treatment, First Aid , Antivenoms
Naja nivea  ( Cape Cobra )  [ Original photo copyright © Dr Wolfgang Wuster ]
Family: Elapidae
Subfamily: Elapinae
Genus: Naja
Species: nivea
Common Names
Cape Cobra , Yellow Cobra
Local Names
Kaapse Kobra
Sub-Saharan Africa
Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa
Taxonomy and Biology
Adult Length: 1.20 m
General Shape
Medium to large, slightly depressed, tapered and moderately slender bodied snake with a medium length tail. Body compressed dorsoventrally and sub-cylindrical posteriorly. Has long cervical ribs capable of expansion to form a hood when threatened. Can grow to a maximum of about 1.81 metres. Head broad, flattened and slightly distinct from neck. Canthus is distinct. Snout is rounded. Eyes are medium in size with round pupils. Dorsal scales are smooth and strongly oblique. Dorsal scale count ( 19 to 25 ) - 21 ( 19 or 23 ) - 15 ( 13 or 17 ).
Temperate regions, arid karroid regions, particularly along rivers and streams entering well drained open areas.
Non spitter, diurnal, active during the day and late evening. It will climb small trees and bushes. If confronted it will raise its forebody and spread its hood tending to dispute its right of way, rather than flee. Frequently makes its home in farm house foundations and stone walls.
Feeds on a wide variety of small vertebrates, including other snakes. Particularly common around Karoo farms where small rodents are plentiful. Known to frequently raid weaver colonies.
Species Map
Small (Approx 20k) version
Average Venom Qty
100 to 150 mg ( dry weight ), Minton (1974) ( Ref : R000504 ).
General: Venom Neurotoxins
Postsynaptic neurotoxins
General: Venom Myotoxins
Probably not present
General: Venom Procoagulants
Probably not present
General: Venom Anticoagulants
Probably not present
General: Venom Haemorrhagins
Probably not present
General: Venom Nephrotoxins
Probably not present
General: Venom Cardiotoxins
Possibly present
General: Venom Necrotoxins
Present but not defined
General: Venom Other
Not present or not significant
Clinical Effects
General: Dangerousness
Severe envenoming possible, potentially lethal
General: Rate of Envenoming: Unknown but likely to be high
General: Untreated Lethality Rate: Unknown but lethal potential cannot be excluded
General: Local Effects
Marked local effects; pain, severe swelling, bruising, blistering, necrosis
General: Local Necrosis
Common, moderate to severe
General: General Systemic Effects
Variable non-specific effects which may include headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, dizziness, collapse or convulsions
General: Neurotoxic Paralysis
May cause moderate to severe flaccid paralysis
General: Myotoxicity
Does not occur, based on current clinical evidence
General: Coagulopathy & Haemorrhages
Does not occur, based on current clinical evidence
General: Renal Damage
Rare, usually secondary effect
General: Cardiotoxicity
Rare, usually secondary
General: Other
Does not occur, based on current clinical evidence
First Aid
Description: First aid for bites by Elapid snakes which do not cause significant injury at the bite site (see Comments for partial listing), but which may have the potential to cause significant general (systemic) effects, such as paralysis, muscle damage, or bleeding.
1. After ensuring the patient and onlookers have moved out of range of further strikes by the snake, the bitten person should be reassured and persuaded to lie down and remain still. Many will be terrified, fearing sudden death and, in this mood, they may behave irrationally or even hysterically. The basis for reassurance is the fact that many venomous bites do not result in envenoming, the relatively slow progression to severe envenoming (hours following elapid bites, days following viper bites) and the effectiveness of modern medical treatment.
2. The bite wound should not be tampered with in any way. Wiping it once with a damp cloth to remove surface venom is unlikely to do much harm (or good) but the wound must not be massaged. For Australian snakes only, do not wash or clean the wound in any way, as this may interfere with later venom detection once in a hospital.
3. All rings or other jewellery on the bitten limb, especially on fingers, should be removed, as they may act as tourniquets if oedema develops.
4. If the bite is on a limb, a broad bandage (even torn strips of clothing or pantyhose) should be applied over the bitten area at moderate pressure (as for a sprain; not so tight circulation is impaired), then extended to cover as much of the bitten limb as possible, including fingers or toes, going over the top of clothing rather than risking excessive limb movement by removing clothing. The bitten limb should then be immobilised as effectively as possible using an extemporised splint or sling.
5. If there is any impairment of vital functions, such as problems with respiration, airway, circulation, heart function, these must be supported as a priority. In particular, for bites causing flaccid paralysis, including respiratory paralysis, both airway and respiration may be impaired, requiring urgent and prolonged treatment, which may include the mouth to mask (mouth to mouth) technique of expired air transfer. Seek urgent medical attention.
6. Do not use Tourniquets, cut, suck or scarify the wound or apply chemicals or electric shock.
7. Avoid peroral intake, absolutely no alcohol. No sedatives outside hospital. If there will be considerable delay before reaching medical aid, measured in several hours to days, then give clear fluids by mouth to prevent dehydration.
8. If the offending snake has been killed it should be brought with the patient for identification (only relevant in areas where there are more than one naturally occurring venomous snake species), but be careful to avoid touching the head, as even a dead snake can envenom. No attempt should be made to pursue the snake into the undergrowth as this will risk further bites.
9. The snakebite victim should be transported as quickly and as passively as possible to the nearest place where they can be seen by a medically-trained person (health station, dispensary, clinic or hospital). The bitten limb must not be exercised as muscular contraction will promote systemic absorption of venom. If no motor vehicle or boat is available, the patient can be carried on a stretcher or hurdle, on the pillion or crossbar of a bicycle or on someone's back.
10. Most traditional, and many of the more recently fashionable, first aid measures are useless and potentially dangerous. These include local cauterization, incision, excision, amputation, suction by mouth, vacuum pump or syringe, combined incision and suction ("venom-ex" apparatus), injection or instillation of compounds such as potassium permanganate, phenol (carbolic soap) and trypsin, application of electric shocks or ice (cryotherapy), use of traditional herbal, folk and other remedies including the ingestion of emetic plant products and parts of the snake, multiple incisions, tattooing and so on.
Treatment Summary
Potentially severe bites, with both local tissue damage and paralysis. Admit all cases. Support impaired respiration. Good wound care essential. Avoid unnecessary surgery. For cases with paralytic features or major local effects, IV antivenom is appropriate.
Key Diagnostic Features
Local pain, swelling, blistering, necrosis ± flaccid paralysis
General Approach to Management
All cases should be treated as urgent & potentially lethal. Rapid assessment & commencement of treatment including appropriate antivenom (if indicated & available) is mandatory. Admit all cases.
Antivenom Therapy
Antivenom is the key treatment for systemic envenoming. Multiple doses may be required.
1. Antivenom Code: SAfSAI03
Antivenom Name: SAIMR Polyvalent Antivenom
Manufacturer: South African Vaccine Producers (Pty) Ltd
Phone: +27 11 386-6000; +27 11 386-6078
Address: Postal address
PO Box 28999
Sandringham 2131
Gauteng Province

Physical address
1 Modderfontein Road
Sandringham, Johannesburg
Country: South Africa
2. Antivenom Code: SAfSAIBK
Antivenom Name: SAIMR Snakebite Kit
Manufacturer: South African Vaccine Producers (Pty) Ltd
Phone: +27 11 386-6000; +27 11 386-6078
Address: Postal address
PO Box 28999
Sandringham 2131
Gauteng Province

Physical address
1 Modderfontein Road
Sandringham, Johannesburg
Country: South Africa
3. Antivenom Code: SAfAVC03
Antivenom Name: Bivalent Naja / Walterinnesia Snake Antivenom
Manufacturer: National Antivenom and Vaccine Production Centre
Phone: ++966-1-252-0088 ext 45626, 45637.
Address: P.O. Box 22490
Riyadh 11426
Country: Saudi Arabia
4. Antivenom Code: SAfIBM01
Antivenom Name: Antivipmyn Africa
Manufacturer: Instituto Bioclon
Phone: ++56-65-41-11
Address: Calzada de Tlalpan No. 4687
Toriello Guerra
C.P. 14050
Mexico, D.F.,
Country: Mexico
Naja nivea ( Cape Cobra ) [ Original photo copyright © Dr Wolfgang Wuster ]
Larger version
Naja nivea ( Cape Cobra ) [ Original photo copyright © Dr Wolfgang Wuster ]
Larger version
Naja nivea ( Cape Cobra ) [ Original photo copyright © Dr Wolfgang Wuster ]
Larger version
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