Mehelya capensis
Physical description
Binomial nameMehelya capensis
Scientific classification
SpeciesM. capensis
Smith, 1847

The Cape File Snake, Mehelya capensis, is a large snake of the Southern African savannah and coastal forests, belonging to the family Colubridae. Found from Natal northwards through the former Transvaal and Zimbabwe, and westwards to the Caprivi Strip and Namibia, thence northwards to Cameroon and Somalia. With an average length of about 120cm, specimens of 165cm have been recorded. It has a very flat head and its body is strikingly triangular in cross-section.

The Cape File Snake's scales are strongly keeled with extensive pink-purple bare skin between the scales. Its colour is mostly grey to grey-brown, but occasionally dark olive to purple-brown. The prominent vertebral stripe is white to yellow, while the belly is ivory white to cream.

Though it is not venomous the Cape File Snake is a highly successful predator of other snakes, easily following a scent trail and apparently immune to all venom. It also preys on small vertebrates. Rarely attempting to bite when captured, it may empty its bowels in self-defence.[1]


  1. Field Guide to the Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa - Bill Branch
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