Brief Overview: The reptile Dendroaspis polylepis, otherwise known as the Black Mamba, is a snake that belongs to the family Elapidae which is a group of venomous snakes. The black mamba is known to be one of the world’s deadliest snakes and is the fastest snake in the world. It is also known as the second longest venomous snake in Africa, right behind the king cobra. It is a snake so feared, and respected; it has been the subject of many African myths and curses to the people.
Species and Appearance: The Black Mambas do not get their name from their body color, which is actually brownish to olive-grayish in tone. They do, however, get it from the insides of their mouths which is an inky black color. It is truly terrifying to see a black mamba open its mouth. An ironic, and terrifying, note to point out is that when it does, the mouth is in the shape of a coffin which could be nature’s way of symbolizing death to any who come into contact with the snake. Like the king cobra, the mamba possesses a neck flap below its head which it will spread open when it feels threatened. This is the main reason why people, sometimes, confuse a mamba for a cobra. Another reason is their length. A black mamba may be shorter than a king cobra, but it can still grow to be 14 feet long though their average length is, usually, around eight feet.
Habitats and Locations: The black mamba is known to access areas all across the southern and eastern parts of Africa. Being cold blooded, the snake prefers to live in warmer temperatures such deserts, savannahs, grasslands, and rocky hills. They have been known to live in short trees across the areas.
Survival and Behavior: Like the king cobra, the black mamba shows its mouth wide open as a warning to any attackers. It is highly aggressive when threatened and known to strike repeatedly and inject a large amount of venom with every bite. Just two drops alone are enough to kill a person. One of its strongest features is the black mamba’s speed. It is currently the fastest known land snake in the world. Slithering at a rapid speed of twelve and a half miles per hour. At this rate it can easily outrun a human, or chase, a human should it want to. Another feature is its venom. The black mamba is known to have strong neurotoxins that paralyze the victim in place as the venom travels throughout the nervous system and shuts it down fast. If not given medical attention within one to three hours, death is 100%; although there have been records of fatal bites happening within 20 minutes. Because of this rate, the black mamba is responsible for over 20,000 human deaths every year. There is an anti-venom but, unfortunately, it is not widely available in the locations where the snake is found. The black mamba is also capable of standing up. They are so strong that they can actually hold a third of their bodies in the air for a few minutes at a time.
Diet and Predators: The black mamba is not picky when it comes to prey. While it normally consumes smaller animals like rodents and squirrels, it is not shy from attacking larger prey. Like the crocodile, the black mamba will attack anything including large birds like chickens, bats, and parrots. The animal is not even afraid to attack its own kind. There have been reports of black mamba’s stomachs having remains of king cobras. Like all snakes, the black mamba does not chew its food but rather swallows the animal hole after its venom kills the prey and lets it slowly digest in its stomach for days, or sometimes weeks, at a time. While the black mamba is dangerous to all it is not without its own predators. Mongoose have the highest success rate in preying on the snake and even dodge its strikes. Other lesser predators are large birds of prey and canines like foxes, and jackals.
Breeding and Lifespan: In the wild, black mambas are known to mate during the spring and summer and can give birth between September and February. After males fight one another by wrestling the other into submission, the winner earns the affection of the female. She will become pregnant for two to three months before laying up to six – 25 eggs which would be known as a “a clutch”. The female will not guard her eggs once she delivers; in fact, she would leave them buried in damp, warm burrows and never see them again. The eggs will be ready to hatch in two to three months with the babies already measuring between 16 – 24 inches in length. They will go out into the world and start their new lives just as their parents have before them. On average, black mambas tend to live up to 11 years while those in captivity live up to 20 years.