Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Species of the Day: Black Mamba
Scientific Name: Dendroaspis polylepis
Adult Size: Averages about 8 feet in length, sometimes growing up to 14 feet in length.
Range: Ranges southward from central and eastern Africa in Somalia and Ethiopia to South Africa
Habitat: Prefers dry woodlands, shrubby savannas and coastal bushlands over more arid, desert-type habitats. Although persistently arboreal when active, they seek refuge in burrows, tree cavities or termite nests.
The Black Mamba is a long, slender snake; in fact, the longest and one of the most deadly in Africa. It is also the fastest snake in the world, able to travel at speeds of 10 to 12 miles an hour. It's name is actually derived from the black lining in the mouth rather than the color of the body, which varies from a dull yellowish-green to a gun-metal grey. Appropriate for a snake of it's reputation, the head is described as being shaped like a coffin. When provoked, the Black Mamba with raise the forward third of its body off the ground and flattening their necks into a narrow but discernible hood, gaping their mouths and hissing loudly just like their cobra cousins.
That being said, these snakes should only be kept in zoo conditions or by hardened enthusiasts that are well educated and practiced in the keeping and handling of such venomous snakes. These snakes require tremendous amounts of room to be happy, with adults living comfortably in a 125 gallon aquarium at the minimum. Black Mambas are extremely intelligent snakes and so are great escape artists and you will need a very secure enclosure for them. A trap-box with a locking door in the enclosure is a must for any venomous snake as it will provide a way to keep the snake in a safe and secure place and allow the keeper to safely clean and work around the enclosure. The trap-box will be most readily accepted in a quiet area of the enclosure and always in the same place. This short profile is not to be used as a venue to describe safe handling of this species, if there are any. These snakes are fast and agile, making clamp-sticks and snake hooks risky to use and trap-boxes the safest option. Sturdy, well anchored branches for climbing should be used for climbing, keeping the enclosure simple to facilitate safe handling. Cypress, fir, aspen chips are excellent choices for substrates. A large water bowl should be provided for the snake to soak and drink from. Keeping the snake well hydrated and the humidity in the enclosure fairly high will help assure complete, healthy sheds. Unlike most snakes, Black Mambas have a very high metabolism and will require feedings about twice a week of appropriately sized rodents. Black Mambas are also active year around and go through no brumation period.