Interesting facts about some of Africa’s most dangerous and most venomous snakes!
- The Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) is Africa’s largest venomous snake, reaching an average 2.5 m in length (8 feet). The biggest ones however, can get as long as 4.5 m (14 feet)!
- It is also the continent’s most feared snake.
- Extremely aggressive, it will not hesitate to strike.
- Fast and agile, it reaches speeds of up to 20 km/h (12 mph).
- Despite its name the “black” mamba is not black, but rather brown/olive or brownish-grey in colour.
- The snake has an “inky black” mouth displayed when threatened.
- It has extremely potent neuro and cardio-toxic venom, capable of killing a dozen men in as little as one hour.
- Without anti-venom, the mortality rate for a black mamba is almost 100%.
- Diet-wise, the animal feeds on creatures such as moles, rats, mice, birds, squirrels and other small mammals.
Mozambique Spitting Cobra
- The Mozambique Spitting Cobra (Naja mossambica) is perhaps the most widespread cobra of tropical and subtropical Africa.
- It is considered as one of the most dangerous African snakes, second only to the Mamba.
- As its name entails, the snake can spit (“spray” is perhaps even more accurate) its neurotoxic venom with great accuracy and reach (jets up to 3 m).
- Its bite can cause severe tissue damage (happens rarely; does not necessarily bite), while venom to the eyes can cause impaired vision or even blindness.
- When needed, it can also elevate to as much as two-thirds of its body length.
- May simulate death to avoid further molestation.
- The Puff Adder (Bitis ariens) is responsible for more fatalities (accounts for +/- 60% of all snake bites) than any other snake in Africa.
- Most common on the African continent and inhabits the majority of regions (except for some deserts and rainforests).
- Since it relies on camouflage to hide itself and lies still when approached, people tend to step on them and get bitten.
- Has very long fangs (12-18 mm).
- Average length is 1 m.
- Moves in a similar fashion to the way caterpillars move.
- When disturbed hisses loudly and forms a tight coil.
- Strikes sideways.
- Can inject between 100 and 350 mg of cytotoxic venom in a single go. The lethal dose for a human is 100 mg of its venom.
- Good swimmer and climber.
- The Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica) is the ultimate ambush snake as it perfectly blends in with leaf cover and surrounding vegetation.
- Ambushes its prey (large birds and some mammals) by standing still, and attacks by surprise.
- Very heavy-bodied (weighs up to 10 kg), and can grow to over 2 m in length.
- Large triangular head, develops two nostril horns with age.
- Has the longest fangs of any snake in the world (records at 50 mm).
- The Egyptian Cobra (Naja haje) is most commonly found in Egypt, but is in fact the most widespread of African cobras.
- Average size is 1.5-2 m, though some can exceed 2.5 m (8 feet) in length.
- The snake has the third most toxic venom of any cobra, just after the Northern Philippine Cobra and Cape Cobra.
- In fact, its venom is so potent it can kill a fully-grown elephant in as little as 3 hours.
- Some people believe that Cleopatra committed suicide using an Egyptian Cobra.
Saw-Scaled Viper (Carpet Viper)
- Found North of the African Equator, Saw-Scaled or Carpet Vipers (Echis carinatus) are small yet viciously efficient and badly tempered snakes.
- Average adult vipers reach a length of less than a meter (20-30 inch).
- Gets its name from the “sizzling” warning sound it makes as its scales rub together.
- The snake’s venom is hemotoxic and very virulent.
- According to some researchers, the Carpet Viper’s venom is 5 times more toxic than that of the cobra, and 16 times more toxic than the Russell’s Viper (one of Asia’s most deadly snakes).
- Better left alone!
- The Boomslang (Dispholidus typusis) is the most venomous rear-fanged snake in the world.
- It is found in sub-Saharan Africa.
- “Boomslang” comes from the Afrikaans word “tree snake”. It is therefore a “tree-dwelling” snake species.
- Unlike the Gaboon Viper, the Boomslang’s fangs are much shorter, yet it can open its mouth at a full 180 degrees to bite.
- While fatalities are rare since the species is very timid, its venom is haemotoxic and results in internal bleeding .
- Sexual dimorphism is particularly apparent in Boomslangs: females are brown, whereas males are light green with black highlights.
- The Cape Cobra (Naja nivea) has a highly neurotoxic venom believed to be the most potent of all African cobras.
- Beautiful snake that varies both in colour (from yellow to copper/mahogany coloured and purplish/black) and size (average is 4 feet; can grow to 6 feet).
- Mortality rate in humans is +/- 60% if not treated immediately.
- Death normally occurs between 2 and 5 hours after a person is bitten, and is usually the result of respiratory failure due to the onset of paralysis.
- The Green Mamba is similar to its black cousin in terms of venom composition (only one-tenth as toxic though), yet it differs in colour (glossy grass-green) and size (1.8 m/5.9 feet on average).
- It is also shy and less aggressive than the black specimen, and tends to be arboreal (instead of mainly terrestrial).
- There are two types of green mambas: the Western Green Mamba (Dendroaspis viridis; native to West Africa), and the Eastern Green Mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps; indigenous to the eastern side of southern Africa).
African Bush Viper
- The Bush Viper (Atheris squamigera), sometimes called the “Leaf Viper”, is an arboreal snake species that inhabits the rainforest and woodland habitats of Africa (Congo Basin, Uganda, Kenya…).
- Primarily nocturnal.
- Highly venomous yet relatively passive. Will defend itself when molested.
- Often comes to the ground to feed on small rodents, frogs and lizards. Uses its tail to hang from the low lying branches and unsuspectedly strikes on its chosen meal.
- Usually green but adapts to its environment for survival: olive brown or rusty brown colour not uncommon.