- Facts & Info -
BLACK AND GREEN MAMBA SNAKE
- GREEN -
The green mamba is a member of the Elapidae family. The family is known to be made up of dangerous venomous tropical and subtropical snakes. Its scientific name, dendroaspis angusticeps is from the Greek and Latin languages. The Greek word “dendroaspis” which means “tree snake” and the Latin word “anguticeps” which is split into “angustus” which means “narrow”, and “capes” meaning “head”. Other colloquial names for this snake include the groenmamba (green mamba), the white-mouthed mamba, the Eastern green mamba, and Western green mamba. The Green mamba is not known to live for very long, in captivity or in the wild, it can live until between 12 to 20 years old.
Green Mamba Snake
-Green Mamba Characteristics-
The name of this mamba type perfectly describes its physical appearance. The dorsal (back) oblique scales of the snake are bright green while the underneath scales are a yellowish-green colour. If you have a closer look at the green mamba, you will see that each scale is actually a light green-yellow colour that fades into a darker shade of green – from afar, it creates the bright green colour of the green mamba. The colour develops as they get older and continuously shed skin, as baby snakes they are born a blue-green colour. The number and pattern of the scales are important in being able to identify this mamba. For example, the dorsal will have between 17 to 21 scales at the midbody and the underside of the tail (the subcaudal) will have between 99 and 126 paired scales. The Green mamba is large reptile with a small body and a narrow, elongated head – the male green mamba can reach up to 1.8 metres in length while the female is slightly longer, usually reaching a length of 2.8 metres. Despite this impressive length, it is one of the smaller snakes and the smallest mamba. The longest recorded green mamba was a length of 2.5 metres. The difference in length is the only physical attribute that separates the male and female green mamba. Green mambas typically weigh approximately between 1 to 1.5 kilograms. The species is known for their long front fangs that are able to rotate on their axis, this allows them to have more control over how their fangs move. The fangs are also hollow which makes it easier to spit out venom when needed. The inside of the mouth is white or bluish-white. Other physical characteristics include eyes with round pupils have golden yellow colour around them. There is very little the separates the Western green mamba and the Eastern green mamba, research has indicated that the Western green mamba may be slightly smaller in length only reaching between 1.4 to 2.1 metres as adults.
-Green Mamba Habitat & Distribution-
Green mamba’s find their homes in shaded, dense, low altitude coastal vegetation, such as trees, a few kilometres from the sea (usually at least 1.500 metres above sea level) where rainfall is more than 150 centimetres. The species may also be found in dunes, montane forests, thickets and farm trees (like mango and coconut trees). Interestingly enough, the green mamba is known to go into the gardens of houses in the suburbs and towns if there are shrubs that grow near an open window or hide themselves in houses with thatched roofs. The Eastern green mamba is commonly found in southern East Africa, particularly in South Africa (in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province), Tanzania (especially in Zanzibar), Mozambique, Malawi, the southern parts of Kenya, and in the eastern regions of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Western green mambas prefer a similar environment to the Eastern green mamba, the only difference is that they can also be found in woodland environments. The Western green mamba is distributed across countries such as Benin, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Togo in only the Aledjo and Kara regions, Gabon, Guinea, Liberia, and the south of Senegal.
-Green Mamba Diet-
The Eastern and Western green mamba are big carnivorous eaters however they only need to feed themselves or be fed at least twice a week and prefer to hunt during the day. The basic green mamba diet consists of birds, eggs, mice, gerbils, bats, squirrels, tree pangolins, lizards, shrews and frogs.
-Green Mamba Social Behavior-
The green mamba can be described as an arboreal reptile. This means they spend most of their time living in trees and will rarely go to the ground. If they are found on the ground they will be in dense bush or shrubs and it is usually to hunt, drink or relax in the sun. They are also known to be shy and elusive and not as aggressive as other mambas such as black mamba. This trait can be attributed to the fact that they are able to easily blend and camouflage themselves with their environments because of their green colour. They are known to live a very sedentary lifestyle and will remain in the same area for days, weeks or even years, only moving from their environment for food or even to find mating partners. It was recorded that the mamba species only moves approximately 5.4 metres per day – they definitely live a very laidback lifestyle. At night, you will find the green mamba alert and coiled up in a tree with leafy clumps or alternatively in a tree hollow.
An interesting behavioural trait is there hunting style. Although they are fast and agile reptiles, they prefer to use a “sit and wait” or ambush style of hunting. This is a style that is unique to them within the Elapidae family as other snakes within this family are usually actively hunting for their prey.
One of the biggest misconceptions of the green mamba is that it will aggressively prey on human beings when given a chance. Despite being ranked as one of the deadliest snake species in the world, the green mamba has actually been observed to want to avoid confrontation with the human race (and any other predator that is bigger than it is). It prefers to rather flee to the nearest tree or rely on its camouflage abilities to hide. The only time that the green mamba may choose to be aggressive and strike is when they are continuously harassed and provoked or even when cornered, in these circumstances they may strike their harasser quickly and repeatedly usually to a point that their victim will be severely envenomated (in other words, being in contact with poison as a result of a bite or sting).
The male green mambas may be violent towards each other when attempting to establish its dominance within the group. A fight will start with one of the males moving on top of the other male’s body and tongue flicking it. What usually proceeds this is the two snakes interweaving their bodies and neck and pushing against each other. This movement is a technique used as a way to pin the other snakehead to the ground. The snakes will never bite each other as this would kill the snake, and from a bystander’s perceptive the fight will not look aggressive. Fights like this can last for many hours.
-Green Mamba Breeding Behavior-
The breeding season of green mambas is during the rainy season which is traditionally between the April and June months. The social behaviour of the green mamba was described as “laidback”, this, however, is not the case all year round. The active and aggressiveness of the green mamba can also be observed during the breeding season.
When it is time to mate, male green mambas will actively search and court the female green mambas, sometimes they may even fight with other males in order to gain the attention and approval of a female that they are interested in. A male chooses his partner by following her pheromones/scent trail and courts the female by aligning his body with hers while flicking his tongue. The female will indicate her interest in mating by lifting her tail and mating will immediately take place. True to its habitual form, the courtship and mating processes will take place trees. If the female is not interested in mating with the male snake courting her, she will attempt to get away and if continues, she may get aggressive towards him.
Female green mambas lay small, long eggs during the summer season (specifically during the October and November months). The average female will lay anything between 10 and 15 eggs, however, it's not uncommon for the number to be a lot less or even more than this. The eggs are kept safe in a hollow tree usually around vegetation that is rotting or leaf litter. The female green mamba is not protective of her eggs, she will usually leave the eggs in the hollow tree until the babies are ready to come out. The baby green mambas will emerge after a short incubation period of between 10 to 12 weeks, depending on the geographical region. The babies are tiny, usually coming out being between 30 and 40 centimetres in length and growing to around 80 centimetres in their first year.
- The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has not listed the green mamba as under threat and the population seems to be stable, however, there seems to a concern regarding the population as a result of habitat destruction and deforestation.
- The green mamba’s venom is made of both neurotoxins (toxins that can cause severe damage to the nerve tissue) and cardiotoxins (toxins which affect the heart and its ability to pump and circulate blood). This means that the venom can be highly fatal. The toxic levels of the green mamba’s venom are based on where the snake is distributed (its environment), its age, diet and also the season.
- Venom can spread through the body within the first 15 minutes.
- The biggest predators of the green mamba are humans, eagle snakes, mongooses and hornbills.
- The bite of a Green mamba will leave a wound with two puncture marks.
Green mambas are highly dependent on their sight when hunting, rather than their sense of smell.
Black Mamba Snake
- BLACK -
The black mamba is a reptile that is a member of the Elapidae family which includes other reptiles such as the green mamba and coral snake. The scientific name, dendroaspis polylepis, is from the Greek word dendroaspis which can be translated to “tree snake”, and polylepis is from the term “poly” which means “many”, and “lepis” meaning “scale”, making the direct translation “many scales”. Common traditional names for the black mamba are imamba (from the Zulu word meaning scales) and ngemalunyayo, the name given to it by the Ngindo from Tanzania, the name means grasscutter (the name is inspired by the fact that it seemingly cuts grass at it moves). English nicknames for the black mamba are the Black-mouthed mamba, Southern brown mamba or Swart mamba. The black mamba will typically live up to 11 years old in the wild and around 20 years when in captivity.
-Black Mamba Physical Characteristics-
The black mamba can be perfectly described as a matte, brown-grey snake that has a long, cylindrical and slender body figure and a light grey-white ventral area (underbelly). The colour of the black mamba is not necessarily consistent, some mambas may appear to be greyer in colour, some may appear as a khaki colour, while others may appear to be dark brown or a yellow-brown or a gunmetal grey. The younger black mambas are often a lighter colour than the adults and will change to a darker colour as they shed skin and become older. Its name is not in any way related to its body colour like with the green mamba, but rather from the black or dark blue-grey colour which can be seen in the inside of its mouth. The colour is more visible when the black mamba opens its mouth when it is threatened and prepares to attack. There is no physical difference between female and male green mamba. Both genders can reach an impressive length of approximately 2.5 metres and 3 metres. The black mamba is, in fact, Africa’s largest snake! The record books currently show that the longest black mamba was found in Zimbabwe and measured nearly double the average length reaching a shocking 4.5 metres. The average weight of this mamba species is between 1.6- 2.6 kilograms. The tail of a black mamba is longer and thinner than the body and makes up approximately 17-25% of its length. As with many other types of snakes, the scales on the body of the snake are important in identifying the type of snake. For example, the dorsal will have between 23-25 scales at the midbody and the underside of the tail (the subcaudal) will have between 109-132 paired scales. Other physical attributes include medium-sized eyes that are a grey-brown colour, a coffin-shaped head and fangs in the front of its mouth that reach up to 6.5 millimetres.
-Black Mamba Habitat & Distribution-
Black mambas enjoy hot and humid areas, because of this, black mambas are known to be creatures of the moist savannah, lowland forests, semi-arid dry savannah, rocky slopes or hills, and open woodland environments. Within these environments, you may find the black mamba in termite moulds and granite hillocks – black mambas find comfort in these types of small areas. The black mamba is not easily found where altitudes are above 1.000 metres. The black mamba population is strongly present in African countries in the Eastern and Southwest regions. The black mamba can be spotted in countries such as South Africa, Cameroon, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana, Ethiopia, Burundi, Somalia, South Sudan and Namibia.
-Black Mamba Diet-
The black mamba is a carnivore eater. The main diet of a black mamba consists mainly of birds and small to medium mammals such as bats, hyrax, rock hyrax, bush babies, rodents and small antelope.
-Black Mamba Social Behavior-
Unlike its cousin the green mamba, the black mamba is described as a terrestrial (living on the ground) and arboreal (living in trees) snake. Similarly, to its cousin, it is not at all territorial or social. It is unlikely that you will ever find black mamba’s protecting their territory or the younger black mambas. They may choose to share shelter or resting spots with other mambas or other snake species.
When on the ground moving between shelters of when looking for food, it will raise its head and neck as it moves at a maximum speed of 16km/h. The speed can increase to 24km/h if moving in short bursts. Black mambas are creatures of the day time and will usually be seen in the sun basking in the morning between 7 am and 10 am and after lunch, between 2 pm and 4 pm – they usually chose the same area and time every day. When they are not in the sun they will retreat to their shelters to rest. Black mambas prefer to rest in hollow trees, burrows or termite mounds. You will often spot a black mamba moving in pairs or very small groups.
It is also not an aggressive snake, which may come across as surprising to many considering the perceived reputable and beliefs formed regarding how dangerous and deadly the black mamba is. If it is threatened, it would rather choose to flee to a bush or a hole; however, if it is cornered or continuously provoked, it will raise almost a third of its body and head from the ground, open its mouth, flatten its neck-flap and begin hissing. If this does not scare the threat off, it will bite the threat multiple times and in quick succession. A black mamba will feel threatened by a human if it approximately 40 metres from it. The most day-to-day aggression is seen when they hunt for food. When hunting they inject venom into their prey by biting it – this will automatically lead to the prey becoming paralyzed or dying.
The black mamba is also known to fight amongst each other in order to establish dominance or when competing for a mating partner. Like the green mamba, a male black mamba will begin a fight with one of the other male black mambas by moving on top of the other male’s body and using its tongue to flick its body. The two snakes will then intertwine their bodies and neck and begin pushing against each other in an effort to pin the head of the other snake to the ground. This fight can last for hours on end.
-Black Mamba Breeding Behavior-
The black mamba may be solitary however it is quite social during the mating season. The months of September to February are peak breeding season in the black mamba world. This is usually after the colder Autumn and winter months. The process is very similar to that of the green mamba. The male will wrestle with rival male black mamba in order to gain the option to court the female of his interest. Once he has ‘won’, he will proceed to follow the scent trail of the female black mamba he wishes to mate with. During the mating process, the male will move over to the female black mamba’s dorsal side will flicking its tongue (this may confuse observers who may think that it is a fight because of the technique used). When the female is ready to mate, it will lift its tail and remain motionless, this will allow the male to move and align its own tail with the female’s tail.
The female lays between 10-25 eggs (typically the average is between 6 and 17 eggs) which are long and in an oval shape. The eggs are kept in a damp, warm burrow or decaying vegetation which gives off heat and assists in keeping the eggs warm and speeding up the hatching time. The social nature of the black mamba is very aloof and shy, and that is especially seen with how they treat the birthing process. The mother leaves the eggs and is not around when they hatch. Baby black mambas are typically born after around three months (between 80-90 days) in incubation. The birth length of the black mamba is between 40 to 60 centimeters, this will nearly double within the first year, reaching nearly 2 meters. The baby is also very nervous and shy, meaning it will hardly be seen during the first year of its life.
- The black mamba has highly toxic and life-threatening venom which has neurotoxins (which affects the nerve tissue) and cardiotoxins (which affects the heart). Research has shown that two drops of venom have enough toxicity to kill a person. The average snake has 20 drops of venom in its two hollow fangs.
- The bite of a black mamba is known as the “kiss of death”.
- The venom of a black mamba can spread through the body within 10 to 20 minutes. If a human is bitten, the first symptom is usually severe breathing problems. Humans can die in between 3 to 16 hours if not treated.
- The mamba species is rated on the International Union for Conservation of Nature list as an animal of least concern. However, habitat destruction may change this status soon.
- The black mamba is the second-longest venomous snake in the animal kingdom. The biggest is the king cobra.
- The black mamba is known as the fastest snake in the African animal kingdom.
The biggest natural predators of the black mamba are snake eagles, brown snake eagle, black-chested snake eagle, foxes and Cape File snakes. The juveniles (young black mambas) are often preyed upon by mongooses.
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