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Rinkhals (Hemachatus haemachatus)

Classification: Dangerously Venomous

Other Names: Ringnekspoegkobra

The Rinkhals is endemic to Southern Africa and found only in South Africa and eastern Zimbabwe. Though it resembles a cobra (spreads a hood) it is not a true cobra and gives birth to live young.

It is essentially a grassland inhabitant but is also found in fynbos in the Western Cape. It is fond of wetlands where it feeds on frogs. When threatened it is very quick to disappear down a hole but if cornered it will generally stand its ground, form a hood and is quick to spit, flicking the head forward when doing so. The Rinkhals is also quick to sham dead with the body turned upside down and the mouth hanging open.

These snakes vary in coloration with individuals from the Highveld usually being grey to blackish with two or three white bars on the chest. These colours are common throughout most of the Free State but as one gets to Clarens they are more banded, often with bright orange. Those in the KZN Midlands, and the Cape Provinces are usually fully banded. 

The venom of this snake is largely cytotoxic causing pain, swelling and potentially tissue damage.  Typical neurotoxic symptoms like ptosis, paraesthesia and dysphagia are seldom seen after a bite. Bites are extremely rare and the last fatality was more than 40 years ago. Polyvalent antivenom is effective against the venom of this snake.