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Black Mamba - Wildlife Special

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Posted by  Cody Friday, 10 November 2006 14:02

Black Mamba - Wildlife Special

The Black Mamba

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Mambas, of the genus Dendroaspis, are fast-moving tree-dwelling snakes of Africa. ("Dendroaspis" is literally "tree snake".) The black mamba is the largest venomous snake in Africa, with an extremely potent neurotoxic venom that is often fatal to humans without access to proper first aid and subsequent antivenom treatment. Prior to the availability of antivenin, envenomations by members of this genus had a nearly 100% fatality rate (this was so until 1960’s). However with antivenin being much more available fatalities have become much rarer.

Even though venom composition varies in black mambas from different localities, there is a good polyvalent antivenom produced by SAIMR (South African Institute of Medical Research) that effectively covers them all.

With good pre-hospital first aid and antivenom treatment most victims survive without any complications. Reversal of symptoms is generally quite rapid with early antivenom administration.

Black mambas usually bite their prey once or twice and then allow it go off to die before attempting to eat. Their venom is extreamly potent and is mainly based on neurotoxins that are absorbed quickly by the prey. The venom will cause a blockade at the neuromuscular junction which blocks every signal from the brain passing through the nervous system to the muscles - causing systemic paralysis. Suffocation will occur due to respiration paralysis.

The black mamba is not named for the color of its body (which is usually a shade of grey), but for the highly pigmented interior of its mouth, which it gapes as a threat display and is black. Slightly speckled mambas are also not uncommon. Juvenile black mambas are light grey or olive in colour but will darken when older.

Many people believe that the Black Mamba will actually chase and attack humans. This is however an utter myth, as humans are their predators, rather than their prey. For that reason, mambas generally avoid contact with humans. However, if a mamba feels threatened by a human, it may defend itself fiercely.

Black mambas are not as fierce as normally described. In captivity black mambas are docile that show a positive & active behaviour when kept in a big enclosure the proper way.

In contrast to all other species in this genus, which are arboreal, black mambas reside in hollow insect mounds, abandoned burrows, and rock crevices. They are diurnal. During the day they actively hunt their prey of small mammals, birds and lizards. They return to the same lair nightly.

Mambas are related to the cobras (Elapids), as can be seen during their threat display, when they stretch a slightly smaller 'hood' while gaping their mouth. Unlike most other snakes, mambas will strike repeatedly if cornered, and have been reported to bring down a baby giraffe and a lion with their venom.

 

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