The Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis)

Dendroaspis Polylepis

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Black Mambas get their name from the inside of their mouths which are light grey to pitch black. Their true colors vary from light to dark grey, dark brown to an olive color. Venomous snake in the world next to the King Cobra. Not only are they super long  but they are super-fast and can go up to 20km/h for short distances They use their speed for fleeing away from danger, not to attack.

The Black Mamba does not occur in desert areas but are known to be more coastal or bushveld reptiles. They are commonly found in the Southern and Eastern side of South Africa such as Limpopo, the KZN region and Mpumalanga. The preferred habitat is Bushveld, which is a mixture of trees with grass in low laying areas 1500 meters below sea level. They can be found anywhere on the ground, long grassy areas and even up in tree’s.

The Black Mamba is known to be shy and will avoid confrontation, however, because they are extremely nervous snake, they can quickly change from a timid to defending when they feel threatened. When threatened they can lift a third of their bodies off the ground, gape their mouth, showing the dark side of their mouth. They will also make a hollow hissing noise, they can also make a small hood to intimidate the threat, but if the threat persists they will strike. They are known for striking multiple times.

The venom is extremely toxic and is one of the most rapid acting venoms in the world.The quantity of venom injected is limited, as mambas have small heads that cannot provide enough room for large venom gland compared to that of the puff adder. The average amount of venom obtained from extracting the venom from the normal adult size snakes is around 80 – 100 mg of dry venom quantity.The venom is rapidly absorbed by the capillary bed of the body and quickly knocks the victim down. When exposed to a lethal amount of BM Venom, a full grown adult human can die within 20 minutes. Typically, the bite will cause paralysis in 45 minutes after the bite, if no first aid is received. First aid for this bite consists of a pneumatic cuff high on the bitten limb and rapid transportation of the victim to a hospital. The venom contains potent neurotoxins which will lead to muscle tremors, excessive salivation, excessive sweating, and pins and needle feelings around the lips with a funny, metallic taste in the mouth. The muscular weakness will rapidly progress toward full paralysis of skeletal – and breathing muscles i.e. the diaphragm and rib cage muscles, followed by death . First, breathing stops and the heart has about 5 minutes until the oxygen runs out and the heart stops.  Around 70% of BM bites will be deadly if not treated adequately.

Thoughts:

Even though they are not endangered, these snakes are still being threatened by the constant move and whims of the human populations. We all need to make a conscious effort to protect these beautiful reptiles and their habitats. To witness a large black mamba on a safari is a sight that will be etched into your mind forever. Although they are very dangerous, they want to avoid confrontations with man, they are not.

Mike Perry