[crb_slide image=”https://legacy.rainforesttrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Herman-Pijpers-slider.jpg” credits=”A Black Mamba waiting to strike. Photo by Herman Pijpers” title=”” text=””]
If the Grim Reaper lost his limbs and grew scales, he might look something like the Black Mamba. With their coffin-shaped heads, rapid attacks, and lethal venom, nothing quite spells death like this African snake. Named not for their skin color but for the inky black interior of their mouths, wild Black Mambas can pose a truly terrifying sight.
But we are just as monstrous in their eyes, and Black Mambas would rather flee than fight. Despite their shy nature, Black Mambas do bite when threatened and are notorious for having killed thousands of unwary victims before the invention of an antivenom. In rural areas, Black Mamba bites can still be fatal, as access to medical treatment is scarce and antivenom is even scarcer.
Their poison is a potent mix of neuro- and cardiotoxins that can kill fifteen full-grown men, and they are the fastest land snake in the world, capable of racing forward with their heads over three feet off the ground, ready to strike at any moment.
[crb_slide image=”https://legacy.rainforesttrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Tad-Arensmeier-slider.jpg” credits=”A Black Mamba displaying when threatened. Photo by Tad Arensmeier” title=”” text=””]
Despite their deadly attributes, Black Mamba’s do attract a certain class of admirers and thrill-seekers who raise them as pets for a rush. This has created a small pet market for the species. Some owners farm the snake for their venom’s medicinal qualities, while others name their unconventional pets ‘Satan’ and post angry reports online of the snake’s attempts to bite them. (Who would have guessed?)
Humans have a love-hate relationship with the elusive snake, simultaneously attracted to their strength but wary of their bite. Black Mambas feature as potent figures in African folklore, and legends tell of them outrunning horses and killing people within minutes. Not surprisingly, human development is driving Black Mambas out of their habitat, and this is a growing problem as Africa’s population continues to expand. Among other species, Rainforest Trust will soon be protecting this species with the creation of Lomami National Park in Central Africa.
At the end of the day, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and with an animal as deadly as the mamba, it may be best to admire them from afar.