Black Mamba - Dendroaspis polylepis

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Average Length: 245 cm. Names in other languages
Afrikaans: Swart mamba.

Venom Type: Neurotoxic


First Aid:

Immobilize and reassure victim, who must lie down and be kept as quiet as possible. Apply pressure bandage immediately, see First-aid procedures;  immobilize limb with a splint to reduce spread of venom. Loosen but do not remove bandage if there is severe swelling. Take victim to hospital as soon as possible. Venom is powerful, usually proving fatal if first aid treatment is inadequate or if anti-venin injections are delayed too long



Distribution


Habits

A graceful, alert and unpredictable deadly poisonous snake and is active during the day, hunting for food. Hunting is done from a permanent lair to which it will return regularly. If it senses danger it will quickly slither away into dense undergrowth.


Mamba showing black inside of mouth

The Black Mamba is named not for it's skin colour, but because the inside of the mouth is black. This snake mainly lives in termite mounds, mammal burrows and rock outcrops. It normally attempts to escape when approached, but if cornered will bite readily and often.

This snake can lift two-thirds of it's body off the ground when striking. Author was present when a black mamba struck against a closed window when driven over by a car.

A black mamba family was observed on the banks of the Limpopo River. There were three mambas, each about 2,5 meters long, occupying a heap of large creeper-covered boulders near a river bank. Sugar birds would hover near the creeper, virtually motionless despite their whirring wings as they gathered nectar, pursuing one another in swift, darting flight, seemingly unaware of the snakes. Every once in a while one of the birds would fly too close and be snapped up, fluttering desperately as the deadly poison took quick toll of its victim. The birdís struggle lasted a few minutes before it hung loosely in the snakeís jaws. Sometimes the birds were swallowed immediately but frequently the mamba released its grip, placed its prey on the rock and inspected it with flicking tongue before starting the meal. A change of diet was provided by a rock-rabbit or coney which ventured too close. No sooner had it squatted down to scratch itself than one of the mambas slid from under the creeper, delivered a quick bite, instantly releasing its grip to await the effect of the venom. The rock-rabbit scuttled back to the crevice energetically as if it has not received a fatal dose, but the mamba was confident. After a few minutes it slid after its victim, dragged it from the crevice, checked to ensure that it was dead then grabbed its head and started eating.

Food

Rodents, squirrels, dassies and other mammals.

Reproduction

Oviparous. Lays 6-17 eggs. Hatchlings 500-600 mm.

Enemies

Birds of prey and other snakes.

Habitat

Termite mounds, hollow tree trunks, granite hillocks in moist savanna and lowland forest.

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