Dendo aspis polylepis
The black mamba is a largely misunderstood snake. It is often described as being fearsome. In reality, the black mamba is the largest venomous snake in Africa. It is slender and graceful, and is streamlined for speed, being considered one of the world’s fastest snakes and the second longest. Though described as aggressive, the black mamba tends to avoid humans and will either move away or freeze when approached. This is also one reason why it is rarely seen in its natural habitat.
The black mamba will only attack when it feels threatened or its territory has been violated. When it opts to attack, however, it does so very swiftly and accurately, delivering from 100mg to 400mg of venom. The fangs are forward facing and it bites repeatedly. This high output of venom makes it extremely dangerous to humans, as death occurs in about 20 minutes. Its venom is neurotoxic.
The black mamba can move very swiftly even through thick undergrowth. The snake has the peculiar characteristic of being able to raise almost a third of its body off the ground. This behaviour denotes alertness.
It feeds on birds and small mammals.
The black mamba has a coffin-shaped head. The scales on its body have a smooth appearance. It is a beautiful gunmetal to olive-brown in colour, with black markings. The inside of its mouth is black. Lengths of up to 14 ft (4.2m) have been recorded.
The black mamba lays 6 – 14 eggs which hatch in 80 to 90 days.
The Animals of the
Aberdare Ranges of Kenya