Riaan Janse van Rensburg indicated the Mozambique spitting cobra which spat on his face while he was visiting family in Pretoria. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/African News Agency

Pretoria - The last thing Riaan Janse van Rensburg expected when he was relaxing at his cousin’s home in Pretoria Gardens was a close encounter with a poisonous snake.

But on Thursday afternoon, a Mozambique spitting cobra came from nowhere and spat at him.

The spitting cobra is considered one of the most dangerous snakes in Africa because of the number of attacks recorded.

Van Rensburg said he was inside when his cousin came from outside, saying he had seen a cobra slithering across the ground in the courtyard outside.

“And naturally, men being men, we (four men) went in search of the cobra, armed with a couple of broomsticks and some tools,” he said. They searched high and low but could not see it. 

But then Janse van Rensburg felt a burning sensation on the side of his cheek and side of his eye.

“I can’t describe that excruciating pain. It was like nothing I have experienced before.

Mozambique spitting cobra. Picture: biodiversityexplorer.org

“It was then that I realised that the bugger had gotten me,” he said.

He rushed to the house and rinsed his eye with some milk. He was then taken to Pretoria West Hospital for further assessment. Unfortunately, the hospital didn’t have any anti-venom.

“Luckily the snake didn’t bite me. But to be told that there’s no anti-venom is almost like seeing your life flash in front of your eyes," he said.

They subsequently called Best Care Ambulance for further assistance. Best Care spokesperson Xander Loubser, said he made a couple of calls to find an institution with the necessary anti-venom, taking him to Steve Biko Academic hospital, where he received the injection.

On Friday, when he spoke to the Pretoria News, he could see again.

“I never thought this would happen to me. One only reads about these things,” he said.

The snake was later found and destroyed.

According to the website, African Reptiles and Venom, the spitting cobra is probably the most dangerous African snake after the black mamba, and it accounts for many snake bites. Its venom can cause impaired vision, even blindness, and its bite can cause severe local tissue destruction. 

However, the snake is not that uncommon, even in residential areas. They are generally more active at night, but also seek warmth. Their main defence is to spread its hood and spit its venom.

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Pretoria News