Black Mamba

Black Mamba Facts
Size 8-15 ft (2.5-4.5 m)
Speed Up to 15 mph (24 km/h) (short distances)
Weight Up to 3.5 lb (1.6 kg)
Lifespan Up to 11 years
Food Small rodents, birds
Predators Crocodiles, jackals
Habitat East Africa
Class Reptiles
Order Scaled reptiles
Family Elapidae
Scientific name Dendroaspis polylepis
Characteristics Longest venomous snake in Africa
The Most Dangerous Snake Worldwide

The black mamba is categorized as the most dangerous snake in the world. It is very fast, its venom often lethal, it is fundamentally nervous and very aggressive when feeling threatened.

It’s Not Black At All!

The term “black mamba” is confusing, because the body of the snake is not black but olive-green to grey. The term derives from the blue-black color in its mouth, which becomes visible during an attack.

The Porsche Among Snakes

Black mambas are the Porsches among snakes. The can reach speeds of up to 12 mph (20 km/h), sometimes even 15 mph (24 km/h). You would have to sprint like an athlete in a 328 ft (100 m) dash to be able to escape. Yet the snake does not crawl at this speed to hunt for prey, but to get away from enemies.

Black Mamba Black Mamba - Photo: NickEvansKZN/Shutterstock

Dangerous AND Shy?

Black mambas are shy (!) and prefer to escape instead of getting involved in a fight. But if they feel threatened they are going to attack rather aggressively. They lift their head, so that up to one third of their entire body stands bolt upright, they spread their cobra-like neck-flap, open their black mouth and hiss. If an attacker retreats slowly, the black mamba also escapes. If the attacker does not move away und continues to harass the snake, it will bite.

The Bite of the Black Mamba

In contrast to other snakes, black mambas do not bite just once but several times. They focus on the body or the head and attack up to 12 times. Their eyesight helps them to recognize enemies and prey by their sudden movements. Different to many other venomous snakes, black mambas have round pupils.

The Venom of the Black Mamba

The black mamba is a passionate poisoner. It does not only produce neurotoxins (toxine = venom), which harm the nervous system, but also cardiotoxins, which affect the heart. Up to 0.014 oz (400 mg) of venom are being transferred into wound per bite. 0.0005-0.0007 oz (15-20 mg) are enough to kill an adult person.

In the past, the bite of the black mamba was always fatal and the victim died within 20 minutes. Today it is possible to treat a bite with a specific antidote. Yet, in poor rural areas, where you can often find the black mamba, the antidote is often rare or not available in time.

Black Mamba Black Mamba - Photo: reptiles4all/Shutterstock

How Does the Venom Work?

People who have been bitten by a mamba, first feel a tingling feeling in their mouths and in the limbs, see double or suffer from tunnel vision. They are confused, develop a fever, foam comes out of their mouths and noses, and they lose control of their muscles. If the bite is not medically treated, the patients will suffer from severe sickness, shock, spasms and finally die.

Where Do Black Mambas Live?

Most mambas live in trees and sometimes like to sleep under the roof of a house or in a barn. Although you might think their home would be the rainforest, they live in savannas, in scrublands and rocky areas.

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