Black mamba

Black Mamba
Setswana Name: 
Mokwepa o montsho
Scientific Name: 
Dendroaspis polylepis

Size: 200-250cm; max. 430cm

It has front fixed fangs. It has a neurotoxin  venom that affects the nervous system of the victim. Can raise about 2/3 of its body while supporting itself with only a third.


Black Mamba is a large, streamlined snake with a narrow, coffin-shaped head and smooth scales in 23-25 oblique rows. The back is uniform gunmetal to olive-brown, but never really black; the belly is pale grey-green, sometimes with dark blotches and its mouth lining is black.


These active, terrestrial snakes eat birds and small mammals like rats and dassies. Its prey is pursued and stabbed with fangs until is collapses from the venom injected into it.

The digestion period of a black mamba is very rapid.
Its favoured home is inside a termites nest, a hollow log or a rock crevice. If disturbed, it will reteat unless cornered. It is confident in defence, rearing the front third of its body, spreading a narrow hood and gaping it mouth to reveal the black lining inside it. It will bite readily and often. If you hear a heavy hissing sound made by this snake, it is best to steer clear!

The venom yielded is 100-400mg; 10-15mg is fatal for human beings.  A bite from this snake is extremely serious, and requires large amounts of anti- venom to counteract the poisonous effect of the venom from the snake.  A victim may be fully conscious, but all the muscles are paralyzed; death from respiratory failure usually occurs in 7-15 hours. In Spring, males fight by raising and intertwining their bodies- a combat often mistaken for mating.


It resides in savannah and open coastal bush, usually below 1,500 metres. In Botswana, Black Mamba are found in most places except the Kalahari desert.


The female lays 12-14 eggs in termite nests. These hatch within 80-90 days. The young measure up to 600mm; growth is rapid, and a black mamba can reach 200 cm in length in its first year.