Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis)


Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family:    Elapidae
Size:    Length: 10 to 14 feet (3 to 4.2 m)
Weight: Up to 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg)
Diet: Rodents and other small mammals
Distribution: Africa
Young:  6 to 15 eggs
Animal Predators:  Birds of prey
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: No special terms
Lifespan: Up to 12 years in captivity



·       As little as two drops of black mamba venom can kill a person.

·       An accidental scratch from the fangs of a dead black mamba can be as fatal as a live bite.

·       Scientists are studying the venom of mambas to use as a painkiller.

·       The venom is used in the medical profession to promote blood coagulation.

·       Black mambas rely on warmth to activate their bodies and will therefore spend hours lying in the sun. 



Of the four species of mambas in Africa, the black mamba is the largest. Black mambas are not actually black, but a deep olive or gunmetal grey with a pale underbelly.



Black mambas are found in the tropical jungles of east and southern Africa, from southern Kenya south to Mozambique, Botswana, southwest Africa, and Angola. They are equally at home in trees or on the ground. Rather than building their own shelters, they live instead in abandoned animal holes.


Feeding Habits

Black mambas feed on rodents and other small mammals and are significant in keeping the rodent population in control. They strike their prey and leave it until the venom has killed it. Then they return and swallow the prey whole. Black mambas can swallow prey up to four times the size of their head by dislocating their lower jaw. 



In the spring, the male searches for a female by finding her scent trail. Females lay up to 15 eggs within a rotting tree stump or within decaying vegetation, where the decomposition gives off heat, keeping the eggs warm. When the little snakes hatch, they are approximately 20 inches (51 cm) long and can immediately catch small prey. They reach a length of up to six feet (1.8 m) or more within their first year. 



Black mambas are known as the most dangerous and venomous snakes in Africa. When hunting or when they sense danger, they travel along the ground at speeds of up to nine miles (16 kilometres) per hour with their head held high above the ground. Although they are quick, efficient killers, black mambas do not strike unless threatened. When confronted by a human, they will watch carefully—if the human makes no sudden movements, black mambas do not attack. In fact, mambas are extremely docile and gentle snakes unless directly threatened. If a person is bitten, although he will be paralysed and appear to be in a state of catatonia, if the bite is treated quickly with antivenin, and the person is put on life support, within a week or two a full recovery can be expected. 



Black mambas are not a conservation concern at this time. 



Black Mamba Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US