When threatened, a cobra rises up and spreads its hood, the flap of scales and skin around its neck. This is a warning to get away or risk being attacked. They also hiss loudly.
Though they are terrestrial snakes, cobras like to be by water. They have startling swimming and climbing abilities. Active mostly during the day, they always return to the same shady hideout—a fissure in the rocks, a burrow, a hollow tree, or an empty termite mound. If seriously annoyed, a cobra will attack. The Egyptian cobra attacks by striking; the black-necked cobra by spitting venom. The Egyptian cobra does not spit. The venom in its bite causes intense pain and affects the nervous system. Death comes from respiratory failture, but how quickly the venom kills depends on how much enters the victim’s blood stream. For example, Egyptian cobra venom can kill a human within 20 minutes, but takes a few hours to fell an elephant. There is an antivenom for the Egyptian cobra’s poison but not for the black-necked spitting cobra’s, which blinds its victims.
Both species have relatively healthy populations, though the Egyptian cobra’s numbers are declining due to hunting. Humans catch and kill many cobras in the wild each year to produce antivenom.