Animals / Reptiles

The Black Mamba

Синонимы и названия на других языках

Black-mouthed mamba, Southern brown mamba or Swart mamba

Schwarze Mamba (German)

Классификация

Order: squamata

Family: elapidae

Genus: dendroaspis

Species: dendroaspis polylepis

Ареал

The black mamba is native to central, eastern and northern parts of sub-Saharan Africa. It is a terrestrial species, though sometimes it climbs trees and bushes. For nests it chooses abandoned termite mounds or tree hollows. The mamba uses its nest for a long time. In case of danger the snake tries to flee to the nest quickly.

Since people have occupied the majority of the mamba’s natural habitat for agricultural needs, the snake can often be found in fields and near the people’s residences. Sometimes it climbs on top of the cane to warm up in the sun. And in such areas the majority of mamba’s attacks on people occur. This number is even higher due to the fact that most fields in Africa are cultivated manually. About 20 000 people die from the black mamba’s bites every year. 

Внешний вид

The mamba’s length can exceed 3 meters, which makes it the second largest snake after the king cobra.

The black mamba is the biggest snake of its genus, and it is the least adapted for living on trees, so it is mostly seen in the scrubs. It is one of the most dangerous snakes in Africa.

Despite its name, this snake is not black. It is usually dark olive or gray-brown color with metal sheen and whitish belly. The mamba got its name due to the black color of its mouth which shape reminds of a coffin.

In the front part of the mouth the mamba has two venomous fangs; it has also usual teeth on both jaws. 

Характер

It is a very dangerous snake. There is a serum against its venom, and before its invention each bite of the black mamba was lethal. The mamba is afraid of people and only bites when it feels cornered.

Its venom has strong neurotoxic effect. In one bite the black mamba injects up to 400 mg of venom which is a huge dose. The lethal dose is 10-15 mg. The venom of the black mamba can kill a human in four hours if the bite occurs in a body part which is remote from the central nervous system (e.g. a finger or a heel). But if the snake bites a human’s face, death occurs in about 20 minutes. The venom contains quickly acting neurotoxins and cardiotoxins that paralyze muscles and destroy nervous system. As a result the person gets paralyzed, cannot breath and gets a cardiac arrest. Without the immediate injection of serum the bite leads to death in 100% of cases. 

Содержание и уход

Normally the black mamba is not kept at home since it is an incredibly rapid snake and you cannot take care of it without risking your life.

It is kept in special labs where its venom is collected. 

Кормление

The black mamba is an active hunter. It mainly eats small rodents, birds, squirrels, sometimes small reptiles, e.g.lizards. Usually it bites its prey once or twice and then gets away for a while to let the venom do its business. 

Особенности

It is a very venomous and aggressive snake which is also incredibly rapid.

It is strongly not recommended for home keeping.

The black mamba is listed in Top 20 of the most venomous snakes in the world. Also it is in the Guinness Book as the snake that develops the highest speed – up to 20 km an hour.

Болезни

If the snake refuses to eat, it can be caused by stress, unsuitable food, or it can happen that the snake just is not hungry.  You should not try and force the food into the snake: they can live without food for a long time without any damage for their health. You should only start worrying if your snake doesn’t eat for several months. Then you need to analyze its living conditions and the menu prior to this situation. You should never try to force-feed the black mamba, it is dangerous.

Snakes can vomit because of stress, illness or if the prey was too big. Also they can vomit if it was fed during shedding or if the temperature in its enclosure is not suitable. After vomiting you mustn’t feed the snake for 7-10 days, and then you can offer it food taking into account the previous mistakes.

Shedding is not a disease, it is a necessary step in the snake’s growth. Its eyes get milky, their color grows paler and the skin starts coming off. During this time you should be extra careful about the humidity and clean water in the enclosure.

Mites are small parasites that live on the snake’s skin. They stick on the snake’s body between the scales and suck its blood. This can make the snake lethargic and it can turn down the food.  To get rid of mites you need to use the weak solution of the same medicine which is used against ticks on cats and dogs. You will also have to disinfect the whole enclosure.

Respiratory diseases are usually caused by potentially pathogenic bacteria if the immune system of the snake doesn’t function properly either due to a stress or to unsuitable living conditions. The symptoms include gasping, open mouth, runny nose. These diseases are treated by the injections of antibiotic called Baytril. 

Разведение

It is an egg-laying species but it never breeds in captivity.

The mating season takes place in the end of spring and in the beginning of summer. Males start fighting for a female. They tie in a knot and try to press each other down against the ground and hit each other with the heads, but they don’t use their venom in these fights. The weaker male loosens the grip and creeps away. The winner doesn’t follow it; it copulates with a female in its area.

After mating the male returns to its nest, and the female lays 12-17 eggs in its nest. The incubation period lasts for 10-40 days. The hatchlings are 40-60 cm long and are independent from the moment of their “birth”. They start hunting immediately. They grow quickly and already after 1 year they reach the length of 2 meters.

Average life span is about 15 years. 

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