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Saturday, 4 June 2011

Black mamba

The black mamba is Africa's most venomous snake and one of the 10 most venomous snakes in the world. Without treatment bites from this snake are 100% fatal. These snakes average between 1.4 to 2.5 meters in length, but snakes of 4 meters plus have been recorded. Black mambas are the worlds fastest land snake averaging between 11 and 19km an hour over long distances and have been known to reach speeds of 23km an hour. The snake is not actually black, ranging in colour from dark grey to gun metal blue, it gets it's name from the colour of it's mouth inside.

When threatened the snake will raise up to one third of it's body off the ground, stretch the flaps on it's neck wide,much like a cobra, and make a loud hissing sound. If this does not frighten it's perceived foe away it will strike several times very swiftly, often landing it's bites on the body or head of the victim. One bite is said to contain enough venom to kill up to 20 grown men.

 Experts say this is the worlds most dangerous snake. But like most snakes it tries to avoid confrontation, it's only when it's cornered and can't escape that it resorts to attack.

Black mambas play an important role in combating pests such as rats and mice. The black mamba's deadliest enemy is the yellow mongoose, which is immune to it's venom.

What got me thinking of these snakes was reading a short story by Herman Charles Bosman. In the *Withaak's Shade.

I told my story over several times before the lorry came with our letters, and although the dozen odd men present didn't say much while I was talking, I could see they listened to me in the same way that the listened when Krisjan Lemmer talked. And everyone knew Krisjan Lemmer was the biggest liar in the Bushveld.

To make matters worse, Krisjan Lemmer was there too, and when I got to the part where the leopard lay down beside me, Krisjan Lemmer winked at me. You know that kind of wink. It was to let me understand that there was now a new understanding between us, and we could speak in future as one Marico liar to another.

I didn't like that.

"*Kerrels," I said in the end, "I know just what you are thinking. You don't believe me, and you don't want to say so."
"But we do believe you," Krisjan Lemmer interrupted me, "very interesting things happen in the Bushveld. I once had a twenty-foot mamba that I named Hans. This snake was so attached to me that I couldn't go anywhere without him. He would even follow me to church on Sunday, and because he didn't care much for some of the sermons, he would wait for me under a tree. Not that Hans was irreligious. But he had a sensitive nature, and the strong line that the *predikant took against the serpent in the Garden of Eden always made Hans feel awkward. Yet he didn't go and look for a withaak to lie under, like your leopard. He wasn't stand-offish in that way. An ordinary thorn-tree's shade was good enough for Hans. He knew he was only a mamba, and he didn't try to give himself airs."

*Withaak, a species of thorn-tree with hook like thorns.
*Kerrels, men, or guys.
*Predikant, preacher. 


Gorges Smythe said...

It DOES make for an awkward situation when people of low character insist on befriending you and think of you as one of their own! Been there, done that! :-)

Kay L. Davies said...

The yellow mongoose looks positively cuddly compared with that big ugly snake, Phillip. It's hard to believe a snake could be that big.
— K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Margaret said...

I've heard of your South African Black Mambas.
Growing up in the Sierra Nevadas of northern California, I once found myself standing a couple of inches from a rather long, fat, and old Diamondback Rattlesnake.Fortunately, he didn't want to interrupt his sunning to strike.

Phillip said...

Hi Margaret,

If snakes don't feel threatened they are not agresive.

Pat Tillett said...

Pretty scary stuff! when I was a kid we lived in an area with many rattlesnakes. The problem with them, as with most snakes, is that you don't always know when you area to step into danger.
Nice story that you ended with!