Friends of Rietvlei
Member of the Wildlife & Environment Society of South Africa Western Cape Region
Eco Bites
The Rinkhals
Have you seen this snake in the Cape Town area?
(Click on the picture to enlarge)
Dark rinkhals Brownish rinkhals Feigning death Rinkhals spitting
Rearing & spreading hood.
(Picture by Marcel Witberg)
Olive brown colour variation
(Picture by Wolfgang Wuster)
Feigning Death Spitting
The Rinkhals  (Hemachatus haemachatus)
It plays an important role for Cape Town's biodiversity as both a predator and a prey species.
Body colours vary from olive brown to black. It may have irregular bands of white, yellow or yellow-orange on its back.
It is often black on the belly, with one to three crossbars on its throat.
It may spread a hood, spit venom or feign death if threatened.
Please assist us with our research...
Cape Town Biodiversity BranchIf you have seen a rinkhals in the greater Cape Town area or its surroundings within the last 10 years, please contact Grant Smith: Tel 021 851 6982; Cell 084 328 1001; or E-mail

This research is undertaken by the City of Cape Town's Biodiversity Management Branch that works towards conserving and restoring Cape Town' unique biodiversity.

For more information on Cape Town's biodiversity and the City's more than 30 nature reserves and natural areas, visit or call the Biodiversity Management Branch's head office: Tel 021 514 4189.
More about the Rinkhals
The Rinkhals or Ring-necked Spitting Cobra (Hemachatus haemachatus) is a venomous snake of the family Elapidae found only in South Africa in the southern, eastern and central parts of the the country - there is an isolated population in eastern Zimbabwe on the Mozambique border. They prefer grasslands and swampy areas, but do occur in other suitable habitats.
The main prey of the rinkhals are frogs and toads, but it also feeds on small mammals and reptiles. The venom is neurotoxic and partially cytotoxic. When distressed the snake will rear and spread its hood as a defensive mechanism; it can also spit or spray its venom to a distance up to 2.5m. The rinkhals will fake death by rolling on its back with its mouth agape.
Colour variation in the rinkhals is extremely variable. Mostly they are brown or blackish above, uniform or more often spotted with black or creamy white to light brown spots, irregular variegations, crossbars or bands; below they are dark brown or black with 1 or 2 (rarely 3) white crossbands on the neck. The average length is about 1 meter, but they may reach lengths of 1.5m.
The rinkhals is not the same genus as the true cobras (Naja spp), but is monotypic. It is also unique in that it is ovovipiparous, giving birth to 20-35 live young.
The venom is not necessarily fatal to humans, it causes local swelling and bruising, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, sometimes violent abdominal pains, cramps and vertigo. People must be extremely careful of the spitting, the venom can cause great pain if it enters the eyes.
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