I was out on a morning Drive with David and Kara, we discussed our route for the morning and decided to go down the Beho Beho River and head through a woodland area that lies north from camp.
We ambled slowly in the river chatting about Senna Pod Cassia and Flame Creepers that are in full flower at the moment and visited by a magnitude of colourful birds. “We should see the White Fronted bee-eaters come out of their riverbank nests it’s just around that bend up ahead.” I said, we came around the corner and found more than just the Bee-eaters….. In the middle of our tracks lie seven lions, Bibi’s pride. We spent about half an hour with them and it became clear they weren’t going to move, so we backed up and after some careful negotiation we pushed around them and continued along the river.
After a great view of the von der Decken’s Hornbill it is agreed, time for breakfast. Just before the stop and stretch we noticed a peculiar shaped log crossing the tracks .How is that possible???
AAAhhh that’s how…. it is a two and a half meter Black Mamba (Dendroaspis Polylepis). The Latin name is build up from four Greek words: “Dendro” is derived from the Greek word “Dendron” meaning “tree”. The second part “Aspis, is a generic term for the word “shield”, but also used to describe the shape of a snake coiling itself thus resembling a shield. “Poly“, is “many”, or “much” and “Lepis“ is derived from the Greek word “Lepidos” meaning “scale”.
Dendroaspis polylepis can be roughly translated as “Many scaled tree snake”. The name Black Mamba may be somewhat misleading as it does not refer to the colour of this species, but rather to the colour inside the mouth which is in fact pitch black. The general overall colour of the snake can be best described as gun-metal grey with the belly being an off-white or pale grey colour. The Black Mamba is the longest venomous snake in Africa and second longest venomous snake in the world after the King Cobra and probably the most feared of all snakes. The Mamba can “stand” up with two thirds of the body when threatened.
This species belongs to the family Elapidae which includes all (front fixed fanged snakes) such as cobras. The venom is a very potent Neurotoxic protein that attacks the central nervous system. This species prefers open wooded savannah, rocky outcrops and hills as well as riverside forests. The species often makes use of abandoned termite mounds, and hollow trees for shelter.
Mambas are oviparous (lay eggs). Courtship and mating usually takes place in late spring or early summer (October-December). Males may engage in ritual combat prior to mating with a female.
After a gestation period of roughly 50-60 days the female will lay between 10-30 eggs in a site she has carefully chosen, usually consisting of rotting vegetation. She will defend the nest very aggressively. After an incubation period of approximately 90 days (3 months) the hatchlings emerge from their eggs. Hatchlings measure around 51cm (20 inches). It is important to note that neonates are just as venomous as the adults as soon as they emerge from the egg.
The Mamba was continuously flicking the tongue on the ground following its next unsuspecting meal. They require only one or two scent particles which are passed into the vomeronasal organ via two small openings in the roof of the mouth. They can follow potential prey very accurately once they have locked on to its scent trail.
After a few held breaths and some adrenalin induced giggles we left the snake and locked some prey for ourselves. Delicious Bacon and cheese wheels with fresh brewed coffee.