Black Mamba Fact File
The black mamba is rarely black. Their long slender body is typically covered with grey, green, olive or brown scales on top and white on the underside. They have faint markings if they have any with most of their body being flat colour. Their tongue is forked to help them sense prey.
Their name is not drawn from the outside of their body. Instead it comes from the inside of their mouth which is black in contrast to the white mouth of the related green mamba.
They measure an average of 2.5 to 3.5m (8.25-11.5ft) long. An extraordinarily long individual may reach up to 4.3m (14ft). Their weight may be up to 2kg (4.1lbs).
To eat food they will hold smaller prey items in their mouth while the venom takes effect while for larger prey they will strike it twice and then wait for the venom to overcome it before swallowing it.
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Africa is the native home of the black mamba. Here they range throughout much of sub-saharan Africa living in the following countries, Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
There are unconfirmed reports of the species from Cote d’Ivore and Senegal.
They make their home in savanna, forests, shrublands, grasslands, mountains and cliffs.
Black mambas make a den which is located in a rock crevice, termite mound or tree hollow. They may also occupy the burrow of a small mammal.
Breeding takes place in early spring. Males take place in a ritualized breeding display in which they raise the body and intertwine their body with that of their opponent. They will then attempt to push their opponent to the ground with the first to achieve this winning the mating right.
Once this is complete they will mate with any female they can find in their territory. He finds the female by following her scent. They will flick their tongue over her before commencing mating which is a prolonged process.
The female will lay 6-20 eggs after mating. These incubate for 2-3 months before they hatch. Once the eggs hatch the young are on their own and are responsible for caring for themselves from birth. These eggs are eaten by many predators.
At hatching they have fully functional venom glands though very few of the young reach maturity with most falling prey to predators.
Black mambas spend most of their time on the ground though they are capable climbers.
Much of their day is spent hidden waiting for prey to run past at which point they will quickly strike them.
They are among the world’s fastest snakes and may reach speeds of up to 20km/h (12.5mph).
Predators and Threats
Predators of the black mamba may include birds of prey, crocodiles, mongooses, monitors, foxes and jackals along with humans.
Their best defense is their highly potent venom which affects the heart and nervous system. This is capable of killing an adult human within 30 minutes if not treated with antivenin. They will rarely inject venom when not provoked due to their large amount of work involved in producing this.
If they are threatened they may perform a threat display in which they rear up the front part of their body and spread a small hood they have while hissing at the aggressor.
Typically they will aim to escape predators rather than attempt to bite them.
The main impact of humans on this species is killing them as a result of the threat they can pose.
It may take as few as 2 drops of black mamba venom to kill a human.
Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)
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