Twig Snake - Thelotornis capensis

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Average Length: 1 m Names in other languages
Afrikaans: VoŽlslang
Look for:
  • Lance-shaped head
  • Large eyes with keyhole-shaped pupils
  • Always in trees
  • Bright red and black tongue
  • Inflates neck when threatened


Distribution


Venom Type: Haematoxic. Slow-acting venom (24-48 hours to symptoms) is similar to that of the boomslang but as a rule less severe, nevertheless potentially dangerous. A number of deaths have been recorded. Bites are rare. At present no antivenom is available.


First Aid

Immobilise and reassure victim, who must lie down and be kept as quiet as possible. Apply pressure bandage immediately, see First-aid procedures; immobilise 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.

Habits

This snake has keyhole-shaped pupils and good vision, being able to sight prey from a distance. It seldom bites, unless provoked. It moves gracefully and swiftly when disturbed. Though timid, it will inflate its neck to display the bright skin between scales when threatened, followed by lunging strikes while bright tongue flickers in a wavy motion. The Zulus believe that this snake strikes and wounds like a spear because of the speed of the strike.

Although often called bird snakes, they prey largely on chameleons and lizards but small birds are frequently eaten by larger specimens of 1,5 meters long. Their gray-green blotched coloring blends perfectly with foliage in which they lie motionless for hours, A fairly large snake was lying in center of a thorn bush surrounded by a chattering flock of small birds; the snake prepared to strike, pulling anterior half of its body back, gaze focused on nearest bird. Its long, red, black-tipped tongue was pushed out slowly, leisurely waved and retracted, an action which seemed to confuse its tormentors as the tongue resembled a succulent caterpillar. The birds grew inquisitive; one more so than the rest, perched a few centimeters from the snake, tilting an enquiring eye at the mysterious object. A quick strike, a flapping of small wings, a brief struggle and all was soon over. The snake twisted round, carried its prey to thicker bush and dined in peace, away from the chattering mob.

Food

Chameleons, tree-dwelling lizards, birds, snakes.

Reproduction

Oviparous. Lays 4-18 eggs which hatch after 90 days. Young 230-330 mm.

Enemies

Birds of prey and other snakes.

Habitat

Trees and shrubs in moist savanna and lowland forest.

 

 

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