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