Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis)

Black Mambas are a huge and venomous snake, found in Kenya (as well as the rest of sub-Saharan Africa). It grows up to 14' (4.3 metres) long, making it the second largest venomous snake in the world, after the King Cobra. It is also extremely fast, capable of nearly 7 mph (11 kph) and probably the fastest snake in the world. Not all Black Mambas are black (they vary between green, grey, brown and black), but take their names from the colour of their mouths, which are pitch-black inside.

Black Mambas mate only once a year and females lay eggs. The gestation period is approximately 12 weeks and the young are pale in colour. It is unknown how long Black Mambas live for.

The Black Mamba has few predators. Birds of prey are the main threat, including Secretary Birds and Snake Eagles. The Mongoose, which seems immune to snake venom, will occasionally tackle a Black Mamba. Humans, too, will kill Black Mambas, not for consumption, but out of fear.

Unlike other Mambas, the Black Mamba is not an arboreal snake, preferring to live and hunt on the ground. It lives in abandoned Termite mounds, burrows or rock crevices. From which, it ventures out into savannah, rocks and woodland, searching for food.

The Black Mamba eats Hyrax, Bushbabies, Birds, Rats and sometimes, larger prey. It tends to bite and hold its prey, until dead, although larger prey may require more than one bite. It is capable of lifting the front half of its body off the ground and throw itself forward, when striking. At other times, it simply ambushes its prey.

Photographed in Kenya's Olare Orok Conservancy.

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Keywords:animal, black mamba, mamba, reptile, snake, wildlife

Black Mamba

Black Mamba, head and torso, showing scales and flickering tongue.