On September 13, 2015 Grey Mupinganjira was arrested with a deadly Egyptian cobra coiled up inside his laptop bag. Mupinganjira later told a magistrate’s court he owned the Egyptian cobra but insisted this was not an offense. He asked the police to return it to him.
Mr Mupinganjira was travelling in a commuter omnibus from Epworth to Mbare when police stopped the van and searched the passengers, the court heard. When police found the cobra in his laptop bag, they arrested him and seized the deadly reptile before handing it over to the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.
Mr Mupinganjira was charged under the parks and wildlife act for having a reptile without a permit or licence while the animal was handed to the parks and wildlife management authority.
“Yes I was found in possession of a snake but it is my snake and belongs to me and should not have been forfeited. I don’t know why it was taken from me,” he told the court. He said his mother brought the snake from Malawi but that he could not prove that as she had died.
Magistrate Elijah Makomo described the case as “bizarre” and said the accused should be medically examined and remanded the case until Monday.
Mr Mupinganjire said he was not insane and that he was grieving the loss of his snake which he used, like his mother once did, in traditional rituals.
The cobra, usually about six inches long, is also known as Naja Heje and is one of Africa’s deadliest snakes. It has glands behind its eyes which produce a deadly neurotoxic venom that then runs through its fangs.
Humans bitten by the cobra can die from respiratory failure within an hour.
The Egyptian Cobra
The Egyptian cobra (Naja haje) is a species of venomous snake in the family Elapidae, classified within the subgenera Uraeus. It averages roughly 1.4 metres (4.6 ft), with the longest recorded specimen measuring 2.59 metres (8.5 ft).
The Egyptian cobra is a large species, its head is large and depressed and slightly distinct from the neck. The neck of this species has long cervical ribs capable of expanding to form a hood, like all other cobras. The snout of the Egyptian cobra is moderately broad and rounded. The eye is quite big with a round pupil. The body of the Egyptian cobra is cylindrical and stout with a long tail. The length of the Egyptian cobra is largely dependent on subspecies, geographical locale, and population.
The most recognisable characteristics of this species are its head and hood. The colour is highly variable, but most specimens are some shade of brown, often with lighter or darker mottling, and often a “tear-drop” mark below the eye. Some are more copper-red or grey-brown in colour. Specimens from northwestern Africa (Morocco, western Sahara) are almost entirely black. The ventral side is mostly a creamy white, yellow brown, grayish, blue grey, dark brown or black in colouration, often with dark spots.