December 11, 2007 / 7:56 AM / 10 years ago

Record-size spitting cobra found in Kenya

NAIROBI (Reuters) - A giant spitting cobra, measuring nearly nine feet and carrying enough venom to kill at least 15 people, has been discovered in Kenya, a conservation group said on Friday.

WildlifeDirect said the snake it described as the world's largest had been recognised as a new species and named the Naja Ashei after James Ashe, who founded a snake farm on Kenya's coast where the massive serpents are found.

"A new species of giant spitting cobra is exciting and reinforces the obvious -- that there have to be many other unreported species but hundreds are being lost as their habitats disappear under the continued mismanagement of our planet," said the group's chairman, Kenyan environmentalist Richard Leakey.

Spitting cobras, able to launch poison over a distance of several meters, are common to Kenya's lowland climates.

WildlifeDirect said the discovery would help find an anti-venom for the bite. "Lives can be saved," it added.

Ashe, now deceased, was the first to catch a larger-than-normal spitting cobra in the 1960s, and suggest it belonged to a different species.

Reporting by Nicolo Gnecchi; editing by Sami Aboudi

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