Black Mamba

There are all kinds of snakes in the world some poison some long and others very fast. Is there a snake that is long, poisonous and very fast? That snake lives in variety of climates ranging from savanna, woodlands, rocky slopes, dense forests and even humid swamps of Africa. Even though this snake uses its speed to escape threats, not to hunt prey. I still would never want to cross it’s path.

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The black mamba is the longest venomous snake in Africa, averaging around 2.5 meters (8.2 ft), and sometimes growing up to 4.3 meters (14 ft). Its name is derived from the black coloration inside the mouth; the actual color of the skin varies, from dull yellowish-green to a gun-metal gray. It is the fastest snake in the world, capable of moving at 4.5 to 5.4 metres per second (16–20 km/h, 10–12 mph).

Black Mamba

Black mamba at Wilmington's Serpentarium

The venom of the black mamba consists mainly of neurotoxins with an LD50 of 0.25 mg/kg. Its bite delivers about 100–120 mg of venom on average; however, it can deliver up to 400 mg. The mortality rate is nearly 100%, unless the snakebite victim is promptly treated with antivenom. Black mamba bites can potentially kill a human within 20 minutes, but death usually occurs after 30–60 minutes, sometimes taking up to three hours. (The fatality factor depends on the health, size, age, psychological state of the human, the penetration of one or both fangs from the snake, amount of venom injected, location of the bite, and proximity to major blood vessels. The health of the snake and the interval since it last used its venom mechanism is also important.) Nowadays, there is a polyvalent antivenom produced by SAIMR (South African Institute for Medical Research) to treat all black mamba bites from different localities.

Black Mamba

Close-up of a black mamba's head

The black mamba is one of the most dangerous and feared snakes in Africa due to its potent venom, large size, and the ferocity of its attacks. However, humans bitten by black mambas are rare, as the snake would rather avoid confrontation with humans, and their occurrences are uncommon.

If bitten, common symptoms for which to watch are rapid onset of dizziness, coughing or difficulty breathing, and erratic heartbeat. In extreme cases, when the victim has received a large amount of venom, death can result within an hour from respiratory or cardiac arrest. Also, the black mamba’s venom has been known to cause paralysis. Death is due to suffocation resulting from paralysis of the respiratory muscles.