Black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) – “Imamba”
This snake is found throughout Swaziland, but it is more common in the Lowveld. We have removed over 180 problematic Black mambas in a single season (August to May), but the numbers have been dwindling over the last few years.
It is a long and slender snake, that on average reaches 2.0 – 2.8 meters, with larger individuals reaching 3.0m. The largest Black mamba ever found was 4.3 meters which came from KZN, but the largest I have ever caught was 3.2 meters long. The head has vertical sides with the distinctive coffin shape. The colour is never pitch black although it can become very dark, almost black, just before shedding. The normal colour is a light to dark grey, light black or various shades of brown or olive, with lighter banding on the rear part of the body. The underside is white in colour, and can be plain or sometimes heavily spotted towards the tail. The inside of the mouth is inky-black (this is where it gets its name from).
The Black mamba is shy, nervous, elegant, intelligent, alert and tries to avoid contact with humans. It does NOT attack unprovoked as is often reported, and is NOT an aggressive snake. The belief that it will “chase or hunt” its victim is totally untrue. When approached, it will lift its head well off the ground to get a better look, flatten its neck into a slight hood, hiss a hollow sounding hiss (this sound is unforgettable), and gape its mouth showing the black lining. Its best to heed this warning for if you do not, it could result in the snake lunging forward to bite, sometimes striking twice in quick succession. Black Mambas very rarely give a dry-bite (no venom is injected). They do not hold on and chew, but deliver a quick bite and release immediately. Many locals believe that a snake that bites twice will remove all the venom with the second bite, this is not true, in fact, it will envenomate with each bite.
It is active during the day, normally emerging from about 7:00 in the morning to bask in the sun for about 1 – 2 hours, after which it will move away to forage for prey. It will return to its refuge, which can be a hole in the ground, or under a large rock outcrop, or a hollow tree, from about 15:00 to 17:00. They will live undisturbed in the same hollow log or termite mound for up to 8-10 years. Mambas will often enter houses or building when foraging for prey or to get out of severe weather. They are attracted to human dwellings because of the presence of rats, mice and chickens. The estimated maximum speed of a mamba is probably 15 to 20 km/h over a short distance, not 40 km/h as is believed.
Venom: Predominantly Neurotoxic