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Black mamba

 

 

Length: Maximum 4m, average 3m.

 

Lifespan: Up to 12 years in captivity.

 

Food: Lizards, birds, rodents and other small mammals.

 

Distribution: Eastern Africa, from southern Ethiopia to southwest Africa.

 

Status: At present not endangered. Increasing human disturbance could cause a threat in the future.

 

After the king cobra, the black mamba is the longest venomous snake in the world. It is also the fastest-moving snake in the world, reaching up to 23km/h. In spite of its name, the snake tends to be greyish-brown in colour.

  

Black Mamba Habits

 

Black mambas spend their nights in holes in the ground - usually disused burrows - or hiding deep among fallen rocks or timber. These hiding places are also fled to by the snake if it becomes alarmed and it will attack any creature blocking the path to its hole.

 

Like all reptiles, the black mamba is cold blooded, and relies on external heat to maintain its body temperature. Therefore, it frequently basks in the sun during the day, either on a low branch or a rock, but during the summer, the snake may be forced to take cover in its burrow if it becomes too hot.

 

Food and hunting: Black mambas travel quickly across rough ground or along low tree branches when hunting. They are able to hold their heads up to 1m above the ground when striking, and can hold them 50cm above the ground even when moving. They have very good eyesight and can strike their prey - rodents, bats, birds and lizards like lightning, leaving their powerful venom to finish off the kill.

 

The venom is injected through two hollow fangs at the front of its mouth which lie flat until the snake bites something, at which point small, movable mouth bones erect them. The venom causes rapid paralysis. Enzymes in the snake’s saliva start to digest the prey before it even reaches the stomach, and most prey is digested within a few hours.

 

Breeding: This takes place in spring and early summer. Males may travel long distances looking for females. After mating, the snakes return to their own holes. Females lay between 10 and 25 eggs, usually in decaying vegetation. The decomposition of the vegetation gives off heat, which helps to warm the eggs and speed up hatching time. The shells of the eggs allow water and oxygen to reach the developing embryos.

 

Black mamba hatchlings are around 51cm long, and greyish-green in colour. They are independent immediately and can catch prey the size of a small rat. Within a year, they reach 2m. Young mambas are eaten by mongooses, and even adult mambas are eaten by the secretary bird and larger species of eagle.

 

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GREEN MAMBA

 

SCIENTIFIC NAME:Dendroaspis angusticeps

PHYLUM: Chordata

CLASS: Reptilia

ORDER: Squamata

FAMILY: Elapidae

LENGTH: 4-7 feet

RANGE: Most of East Africa; from Kenya to Zimbabwe.

HABITAT: Found usually in tropical or wooded areas. Mambas are also very good tree climbers.

DIET: Feeds mostly on birds and lizards. The mamba differs from other snakes in that after striking its prey it leaves it to die. Digestion of a kill requires eight to ten hours.

LOCATION IN THE ZOO:  Herpetarium

 

ANATOMY

Mambas have scales on their bodies. The green in the mamba's body is used to help hide it from its enemies while resting in the trees. The mamba's jaw is adapted for feeding, with the snake's skin being elastic and it being able to dislocate. That is why the mamba can swallow prey up to four times the size of its head.

 

SENSES

Smell is detected by the use of mamba's tongue, which picks up vibrations.

Vibrations can also be picked up from the ground through the mamba's body.

 

LOCOMOTION

When confronted by predators, mambas prefer to flee at speeds up to 7 mph, but will strike when threatened.

 

HABITS

Non-territorial.

Mambas rely on abandoned termite mounds and animal holes for shelter.

Other areas include sparse brush and rocky areas.

 

ACTIVITY PERIOD

Usually diurnal, except in areas where populations are large,

where they have become somewhat nocturnal.

 

ENEMIES

Enemies are larger animals and humans.

 

DEFENSE

Usually will flee, but if cornered or trapped, mambas will hiss and/or strike out to defend themselves. When striking out, if hit the green mamba injects a whitish venon which affects the victim's nervous system; it mostly affects the heart or breathing.

 

  SOCIAL UNIT

The green mamba travels throughout its life alone.

 

REPRODUCTION

Mating occurs in spring after the male finds a female from her scent trail.

Copulation can be drawn out to over a couple hours or days. After copulation the female can lay from 10-15 eggs. The eggs are long and thin and range 4-6 centimeters in length and 3-3.5 centimeters in width.

 

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Shield Nose snake

Aspidelaps scutatus scutatus

 

Southern Africa

 

Length:

Average: 0.4 - 0.75m

 

Activity:

Nocturnal

 

Diet:

Small mammals, amphibians, lizards and other snakes

 

Danger Rating:

 

Young:

Eggs: 4 - 10

 

...........

 

 

Dwarf adder

 

The Namaqua dwarf adder is the shortest venomous snake in the world, reaching a maximum length of just 28 cm. All members of the family Viperidae, containing the vipers and pit vipers, have broad triangular shaped heads and heavy bodies that feature many scales. They have long hinged fangs that allow them to inject prey into their victims; when not in use, these fangs fold back and rest against the roof of the mouth. Between each nostril and eye there is a pit containing heat-sensitive organs, which allow the snake to detect prey.

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Cape cobra

 

Name:      Naja nivea

Length:    Average 1,2m  Maximum 2m

Active:      Nocturnal and diurnal

Dwelling:  Ground, shrubs and trees  

 

Body colour variable, from black to brown, orange, yellow or mottled.

Stands its ground and spreads a broad hood when confronted.

Active during the day and early evening.

 

Preferred habitat

Fynbos, Karoo, arid savanna where it inhabits rodent burrows, disused termite mounds and rock crevices.  

 

Frequently found near human dwellings.  It well readily enter a house to escape from the heat.

 

Cape Cobra ready to strike

 

Habits

Active during the day and early evenings when it might even climb trees to search for food.

 

When confronted this nervous snake invariably faces its enemy, spreading a broad, impressive hood.

 

It strikes readily, except if the attacker remains motionless - then it will soon move off.

 

Danger to man

An extremely dangerous cobra that stands it ground if confronted.  Bites are common and often fatal, the victim dying of suffocation.

 

Venom

A highly neurotoxic venom, most potent of any Africa cobra.

 Food and feeding

 

The Cape Cobra feeds on rodents, birds, other snakes, lizards and toads.

 

It will even climb into a tree to reach fledgling birds in their nests.  It will also raid sociable weavers' nest.

 

It will frequent human dwellings to find shelter and look for mice.

 

 

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Spitting cobra

 

Name:      Hemachatus haemachatus

Length:    Average 1m  Maximum 1,5m

Active:      Nocturnal and diurnal

Dwelling:  Ground  

 

Banded snake

Lifts up to half its body off the ground and spreads a hood.

Basks in the sun

Plays dead when approached

 

Preferred habitat

 

Grassland , moist savanna, lowland forest and fynbos.  It is often encountered on smallholdings in and around cities in the area of dams, compost heaps and rockeries.

 

 Habits

It is mainly active at night, but likes to bask in the sun.  If cornered it will lift up to half its body from the ground and spread its hood. 

 

It can spit effectively for up to three metres.  Sometimes the Rinkhals will play dead, hang limply, but it can strike at any time.

 

Bites are rate and are more inflicted on dogs and horses.

 

Danger to man

Its venom is potentially deadly, but fatalities are rare.

 

Venom

A dangerous neurotoxic venom that affects breathing and may cause respiratory failure in untreated cases.  

 Food and feeding

The Rinkhals hunts mainly at night.  It is very partial to toads.

 

It also feeds on lizards, rodents, snakes, birds and their eggs.  The eggs are swallowed whole.

 

Development is this snake's biggest enemy as more and more of its habitat is destroyed.

 

 

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Gaboon Viper

 

The West African Gaboon Viper  is the largest of the Old World vipers.  Though their length tops out at about 7 feet, they are thick-bodied and may weigh up to 25 lbs.  On the largest examples, the head can be nearly six inches across its widest ,point.  When observed against a neutral background, Gaboon vipers ar gaudily marked with diamonds and stripes against a light buff-to-pink background.  This striking pattern is excellent camouflage in the snake's native forest  habitat, however, blending into the leaf litter.  The head mimics a fallen leaf.  These two images show closeups of the pattern, and of the head, displaying the scaly "horn" that gives this snake its subspecies name:

 

Gaboon vipers are passive hunters, waiting concealed to strike at whatever

small creatures pass within range.  They have the longest fangs of any

snake, reaching 2 inches in a large specimen.  Most snakes strike and

release, but the gaboon viper holds its prey until the victim dies.  Due

to the snake's placid nature, bites to humans are rare; most occur when the

snake is stepped on before it has an opportunity to get away.  If

harassed, it will raise the upper part of its body and hiss in threat

before actually striking.  In addition to its unwillingness to bite, the

viper can control whether and how much venom is injected, so the result of

a strike can range from no effect to rapid death.  A hungry snake will

strike at almost any lateral movement, so some bites might well be a

result of mistaken identity.

 

 

gabon.jpg

Many horned adder

 

Name:      Bitis cornuta

Length:    Average 30cm  Maximum 61cm

Active:      Nocturnal and diurnal

Dwelling:  Ground  

 

A tuft of 2-4 horns above each eye.

Often seen crossing roads after sunset.

Prefers gravel flats where it can shelter from the wind.

Most active at dusk and in the early mornings.

 

Preferred habitat

Found on mountains, rocky outcrops and gravel plain in dry areas and savanna.

 

Habits

 

It prefers rocky areas on sandy or gravel flats.  It is most active at dusk or early mornings.  When confronted it will hiss and strike with force.

 

Note the tufts of horns above each eye.

 

Danger to man

This snake's venom yield is minute. 

It poses no great threat to man, but it has an extremely painful bite.

 

Venom

Mildly cytotoxic with much pain and swelling.

 Food and feeding

The many-horned adder mainly feeds on ground-living lizards, small rodents and amphibians.

 

Many individuals are captured for the exotic pet trade and exported illegally.

 

They are also often killed by passing vehicles when they are crossing the roads.

 

 

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Berg adder

 

Name:      Bitis atropos

Length:    Average 30cm  Maximum 60cm

Active:     Diurnal

Dwelling: Ground  

 

A triangular head.

 

Lacks chevron markings along the body.

 

Hisses loudly.

 

Strikes readily if disturbed

 

It likes to bask in the sun.

 

Preferred habitat

Montane grassland, fynbos and rocky slopes .

 

Habits

A particularly bad-tempered snake that hisses loudly and will strike readily if approached. 

 

A Berg adder sunning itself on a rock.

 

Danger to man

Berg adders are common and strike readily when encountered. 

 

Venom

The venom differs from that of most adder in that it is mildly neurotoxic, with specific action on the optic and facial nerves, causing drooping eyelids, dizziness and temporary loss of smell and taste.

 Food and feeding

It feeds mainly on lizards and small rodents but also amphibians, including rain frogs.

 

Nestlings of ground-living birds and smaller snakes are also taken.  Juveniles, however, feed largely on frogs and other amphibians.  Its enemies are mainly predatory birds and other snakes.

 

 

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Horned adder

 

Name:      Bitis caudalis

Length:    Average 25cm  Maximum 50cm

Active:      Nocturnal and diurnal

Dwelling:  Ground  

 

A small adder with a triangular head distinct from the rest of the body.

A single horn above each eye.

Hisses and strikes readily.

May worm itself into loose sand.

 

Preferred habitat

Dry, sandy regions in arid savanna and semi-desert areas.

 

Habits

A small adder that may bury itself in loose sand by wriggling until concealed.  Only the top of the head, eyes and the little horns are left exposed.

 

The horned adder may bury itself in the sand

 

Danger to man

May inflict a painful bite which causes swelling but poses no real threat.

 

Venom

The venom is mildly cytotoxic causing swelling and much pain, accompanied by shock and local necrosis.

 Food and feeding

Feeds on small lizards such as skinks, which it ambushes in the day or geckos and rodents at night.  Amphibians are also taken.  It uses the darkened tip of its tail to lure pray when it is buried in loose sand.  When it strikes it hangs onto its prey while its venom takes effect.

 

 

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Coral snake

Name:      Aspidelaps lubricus

Length:    Average 40cm  Maximum 80cm

Active:      Nocturnal

Dwelling:  Ground  

 

It has several black crossbars down the length of its body.

Lifts its head off the ground and spreads a narrow hood.

Strikes repeatedly while hissing and lunging forward.

Active at night.

 

Preferred habitat

Rocky outcrops, stony and dry, sandy regions such as desert, arid savanna, Karoo and fynbos.

 

Habits

Spend most of its life underground, emerging at night to forage for food. 

Very active after rains.

 

The Coral snake emerges mainly at night

 

Danger to man

Bites have not resulted in life-threatening symptoms.

 

Venom

Very little is known about its venom.

 Food and feeding

The Coral snake feeds mainly on lizards, small snakes and rodents.

 

Many of these snakes are killed on roads just after good rains because then they become much more active.

 

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Puff adder

 

Name:      Bitis arietans

Length:    Average 90cm  Maximum 1,7m

Active:      Nocturnal and diurnal

Dwelling:  Ground and shrubs  

 

A short, stubby snake with a triangular head distinct from the rest of the body.

Yellow to grey-brown with distinct black chevrons on the back.

May hiss or puff when disturbed.

Very active after sunset.

 

Preferred habitat

Common throughout South Africa except for mountain tops, true desert and dense forest.

 

Habits

A slow-moving, bad-tempered and excitable snake that may hiss or puff when disturbed.  It relies on its perfect camouflage and will rather freeze than move off.

 

The Puff adder is camouflaged against the sand.

 

Danger to man

It features prominently in snake-bite accidents.  It accounts for up to 60 persent of snake bites in SA.

 

Venom

A potent cytotoxic that attacks tissue and blood cells.

 Food and feeding

It usually ambushes its prey.  It feeds on rats and mice, other small terrestrial mammals, ground birds, lizards, toads and occasionally other snakes.

 

Rodents are usually bitten and left to die.  The Puff adder then follows its prey's scent with a flickering tongue.

 

 

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