A man died after an encounter with a venomous snake in Grahamstown last night. While Netcare, whose paramedics attended to the man, refused to discuss the incident with Grocott's Mail, Grahamstown SAPS spokesperson Mali Govender said the victim, Shaun Moolman, had kept snakes and had apparently suffered respiratory problems after a red spitting cobra released its venom in his face. Moolman was reportedly asthmatic.
According to Govender, Moolman and a friend who lived with him had been about to take a photograph of the newly acquired reptile. As he was holding the snake, it spat venom in his face. It appeared that the venom had caused Moolman respiratory problems, Govender said. He died on the scene.
According to local snake expert Basil Mills, it was extremely unusual for that type of snake to bite people. "This is relatively small Eastern Africa snake, found in semi-desert areas, and doesn't normally bite people." They stand up when threatened and spray their venom at their enemies. They also bite when surprised and feel threatened," Mills said. Mills said messages had been left on his cellphone, summoning him to the scene, but because he'd been working in the field, his phone had been switched off.
According to Wikipedia, the red spitting cobra, Naja pallida, is one of several spitting cobras in Africa. Like most, it contains a mixture of neurotoxic and cytotoxic venom. This snake seldom bites. Human deaths as a result of being bitten by this snake are rare, because due to its habitat, this species rarely encounters people. It is also not aggressive.
Govender said Moolman, who held a permit issued by the department of environmental affairs and tourism, had kept around 34 species of snake, 89 reptiles in total, in his home. The department had been contacted and were due to visit Moolman's home today. "An inquest docket has been opened with us and the post-mortem will be done today. Only after that can we confirm the cause of death."