Equatorial Spitting Cobra

Naja sumatrana

Last updated: May 22, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Lauren Suryanata/Shutterstock.com

Its hood is actually made of ribs.

Equatorial Spitting Cobra Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Reptilia
Order
Squamata
Family
Elapidae
Genus
Naja
Scientific Name
Naja sumatrana

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Equatorial Spitting Cobra Conservation Status

Equatorial Spitting Cobra Locations

Equatorial Spitting Cobra Locations

Equatorial Spitting Cobra Facts

Prey
Rodents, frogs, lizards, other snakes, small mammals.
Name Of Young
Hatchlings or snakelets
Fun Fact
Its hood is actually made of ribs.
Estimated Population Size
Unknown, but widespread and stable
Most Distinctive Feature
A hood that it can widen to make itself look bigger to predators.
Distinctive Feature
Depressed head and slender neck
Other Name(s)
Black spitting cobra, golden spitting cobra, Malayan spitting cobra, Palawan spitting cobra, and Sumatran spitting cobra
Habitat
1,500 meters above sea level in tropical forests and in urban areas such as gardens and parks
Diet
Carnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
Common Name
Equatorial spitting cobra

Equatorial Spitting Cobra Physical Characteristics

Skin Type
Scales
Venomous
Yes
Aggression
Low

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The Equatorial spitting cobra, which has many different names, can spray venom up to 1.5 meters away if it feels threatened.

It is an opportunistic eater that latches on with its fangs to kill prey. With large nostrils and a round mouth, they can be quite intimidating with their loud hiss, warning you to stay away. They are either black or yellow, and they aren’t afraid to go into urban areas if that’s where they can get their food.

5 Amazing Equatorial Spitting Cobra Facts

  1. Here are some fun facts about the Equatorial spitting cobra.
  2. The size of the largest Equatorial spitting cobra on record was 4.9 feet long.
  3. Though the Equatorial spitting cobra can easily live 1,500 meters above sea level, their preferred habitat is the tropical forest.
  4. They can spit venom in the eyes of a threat from several feet away.
  5. Though humans should mostly stay away from this cobra, it has been used in Sumatra as a way to keep rat populations under control.
  6. Its hood is actually made of ribs.

Where to Find Equatorial Spitting Cobras

Equatorial spitting cobras are only found in southeast Asia. More specifically, they can be located in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Due to the rich environments, there have also been sightings in Sumatra, Borneo, Bangka, Belitung, and the Riau Archipelago. A few small populations have been recorded in Java and the islands around Indonesia.

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These cobras are rather resilient, making it easy for them to find their habitat at 1,500 meters above sea level in tropical forests. However, they are equally happy roaming through urban areas like gardens and parks. Primarily, they are diurnal, and they’ll go where they need to go to find the rodents and frogs that they naturally eat in their diet. Even though they aren’t that aggressive, don’t go seeking them out or they will feel forced to defend themselves.

Equatorial Spitting Cobra Scientific Name

The Equatorial spitting cobra is also known as the black spitting cobra, golden spitting cobra, Malayan spitting cobra, Palawan spitting cobra, and Sumatran spitting cobra. It’s scientific name – Naja Sumatran – was originally adopted in 1989, and it originally comes from Latinized Sanskrit, meaning “sea cobra.”

It is of the Reptilia class in the Elapidae family.



Population & Conservation Status

Currently, there’s no known population of Equatorial spitting cobras, despite being condensed exclusively in Asian habitats. According to the most recent assessment by the IUCN, their population is steady, and they are of Least Concern to conservationists.

Appearance & Description

With a body of medium size (3 to 3.9 feet long), you will seldom see any Equatorial spitting cobra that is longer, but there are some cases of growing to nearly 5 feet long. Like all cobras, their depressed head and slender neck feature a hood that it can widen to make itself look bigger to predators. It has round pupils and smooth dorsal scales, though there are only two recognized color phases. Yellow Equatorial spitting cobras are primarily located in Thailand and some parts of northern Malaysia, while the black variation is essentially found everywhere else, including Singapore and Philippines. Adults and baby cobras are easy to tell apart because their colors are different as well.
How to identify an Equatorial spitting cobra:

  • Adults are 3-5 feet long.
  • Solid black or yellow with some spotting along hood
  • Depressed head
An equatorial spitting cobra with its head raised and hood open
Equatorial spitting cobras are solid black or yellow with some spotting along hood.

Reptilian/Shutterstock.com

Equatorial Spitting Cobra Venom: How Dangerous Are They?

The neurotoxic venom of the Equatorial spitting cobra makes it quite dangerous to anyone nearby. They won’t go out of their way to bite or fight humans if they feel that they are a safe distance away. However, their venom doesn’t actually need to be released into a bite to make a difference. It has earned its name from the ability to spit its venom, targeting the eyes of the perceived threat. As soon as the venom comes in contact with your eyes, it can impose permanent damage.

If an Equatorial spitting cobra bites you or spits their venom at you, you need medical assistance as soon as possible. The first thing you need to do is wash out the venom from the bite or eyes while you wait for help to arrive. Unfortunately, there are many cases of death through a single bite, and the only way to reduce the risk of death is emergency care.

Equatorial Spitting Cobra Behavior & Humans

Always treat this snake with caution. While they aren’t aggressive, they are far from the friendly demeanor you can expect from a California kingsnake or other non-venomous reptiles. Adults will hiss and broaden their hood with their head raised if they think you are a threat, and they will not shy away from spraying its venom directly at your eyes.

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Equatorial Spitting Cobra FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Why is it called the Equatorial spitting cobra?

While there are many cobra species that bite to release venom, this cobra is able to spit its venom at you. They have such incredible precision that they can get the venom in your eyes from up to 2.5 meters away from the target.

Are Equatorial spitting cobras venomous?

Yes. Despite their medium size, their venom is incredibly dangerous, and being bitten can be fatal.

Where are Equatorial spitting cobras found?

This species of snake is only located within southeast Asia. It is found in a handful of countries, including Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Borneo.

What do Equatorial spitting cobras eat?

The typical diet of the Equatorial spitting cobra entirely depends on what’s nearby. It prefers to eat smaller prey like rodents and frogs. However, it is strong enough to overpower other snakes, lizards, and small mammals. They aren’t very aggressive, but they’ll strike if they need to.

How do Equatorial spitting cobras hunt?

The only way that an Equatorial spitting cobra can capture prey is by biting and hanging on. They aren’t capable of constricting their prey to kill it.

Sources
  1. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equatorial_spitting_cobra
  2. Ecology Asia, Available here: https://www.ecologyasia.com/verts/snakes/equatorial_spitting_cobra.htm
  3. IUCN Red List, Available here: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/184073/1748598
  4. Reptile Database, Available here: https://reptile-database.reptarium.cz/species?genus=Naja&species=sumatrana
  5. Thai National Parks, Available here: https://www.thainationalparks.com/species/naja-sumatrana
  6. National Geographic, Available here: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/news-cobras-venom-eyes-perfect-aim

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