Monday, July 09, 2007

What am I up to? (7 July), continued

Black mamba.

There are 15 deadly snakes in southern Africa, more or less. Saturday, I learned about the Black Mamba, Green Mamba, Cape Cobra, Snouted Cobra, Angolan Cobra, Black Spitting Cobra, Forest Cobra, Mozambique Spitting Cobra, Zebra Spitting Cobra, Black-Necked Spitting Cobra, Rinkhals, Puff Adder, Gaboon Adder, Boomslang, and Twig Snake.

It is said that Swaziland serpent bites are usually due to the Puff Adder and Mozambican Spitting Cobra. Black Mambas are around, but this legendary animal (said to be able to outrun a horse) does not usually sleek around looking for a fight….nor can they (max speed 20km/h) catch a healthy horse (73km/h).

Puff adder.

The Puff Adder is a short, fat snake around a meter long. It looks somewhat like a rattlesnake, but instead of diamonds it has chevron-shaped lines down the back. And no rattle. It gives birth to live baby snakes (20-40 per ‘litter’) and it gets its name from its tendency to breathe in and exhaling forcefully through its nostrils. As you may guess, that makes a hissing noise.

When this one bites you, you can look forward to the skin around the fang marks hurting, swelling, then turning black and dying. One component of the venom causes the blood to lose its ability to clot, and so copious bleeding at the site and into the skin is expected.

A dramatic example of the effect of "cytotoxic" venom, like that of the puff adder.

The Spitting Cobra (and another local snake called the Rinkhals) have fangs that open forward, allowing them to eject a thin jet of venom in the direction of the attacker. They typically aim high, around the eyes, and the stream is designed to break into small droplets, a sort of less-than-refreshing poison spritzer to the face. Their range is impressive, approximately 2 times the length of the snake.


For those of you who read my recent blog entry about Sibebe Rock (Swazi destination #10, I believe), I did not mention that, due to the harrowing incline on the way up, we descended through waist-high grass on an alternate route down. I sent the dogs ahead for snake patrol, but, I must say, on our next Sibebe hike, I might prefer risking tumbling down the granite to these fanged locals.


At 1:07 AM, Anonymous Floriza said...

Hi there, I'm moving to Swazi in October to work there for 2 years, and so I thought I'd get in touch with some people there. I know this is quite random, but if you get this and wouldn't mind answering some questions, please email me back at Thanks a lot! :) Floriza

At 5:23 AM, Anonymous pewu said...

I'm Sonic Dlamini, currently studying in US. In mid 2006, while doing some voluntary work at Ngwmpisi--Mankayane,a community based tourist centre, I was attacked by a somewhat aggressive snake. Here is how things happened. While I was walking back to the camp site and taking a short cut, rather than following the winding trail, I saw the snake with its head about a metre above the ground. It was glossy greyish-brown in colour. It charged towards me at great speeds. All I did was to run at a vertical angle to its direction, then do fast paced zig-zag run for my dear life.After coming to a dead stop about 50 metres past my original postion, it came for me again and I did the same run, but now running downhill, aroud rocks. That actually saved me because the snake couldn't stop flying down hill; I watched its amazing, yet deadly velocity as I hid behind a rock. I estimated it to be about 2.5 to 3 metres in length. In my life it wasn't the first experience with snakes; I have come across green mambas, puff adders and the spitting cobras and many other snakes, but this one somewhat resembles the characteristics of a black mamba. In my understanding a black mamba is the only aggressive snake and the fastest snake in the world and Africa's most vernomous snake. Moreover, its the world's second venormous snake after the Asiatic snake, but its bites are 100% deadly, making it even more deadly than the Asiatic snake. When I saw its head above the ground, it was bout 25 metres away from me. What is your view on this snake?


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