Black Mamba

This species is one of Africa's most feared snakes, because of its powerful venom and the speed at which it can move over the ground. It is an aggressive animal, armed with venom capable of killing humans in four hours.

Black mambas are actually grey with white bellies. The name of these snakes derives not from their body colour, but from the black area in their mouths. They are active during the day, sunning themselves in particular localities within their range, and may sometimes climb trees. Raising its head up off the ground to a height of 1.2 m (4 ft), black mouth agape, the mamba charges. Black mambas rank amongst the fastest of all snakes, capable of moving at speeds up to 20 kph (12 mph), which allows them to pursue quarry. Their potent venom causes systemic paralysis - prey die from suffocation because of respiratory failure.

Hunting by day using its excellent eyesight, black mamba usually bites its prey a couple of times and then lets go.

The stricken animal may make off but in a short time it is paralyzed by the snake's toxins, and then swallowed headfirst.

Distribution: Widely distributed across eastern and southern parts of Africa, extending from the vicinity of Somalia in the northeast, southwards down to South Africa.

Habitat: Tropical forests and savannah.

Weight: Up to 1.6 kg (3.5 lb).

Length: Typically 2.4 - 3 m (8 - 10 ft), but has been known to reach 4.5 m (14.7 ft).

Maturity: 2 years.

Number of Eggs: 10 - 25, laid nearly 2 months after mating.

Incubation Period: 2 - 3 months, depending on environmental temperature; young are dangerous virtually from hatching.

Food: Mainly small mammals such as ground squirrels and hyraxes.

Lifespan: Up to 12 years.

Status: Common.


The body is long and the tail tapers towards the end.


The pattern of the scales is very evident. The largest scales are on the head.


These are large, giving the snakes good eyesight.


In spite of their name, these snakes are actually grey. Juveniles tend to be more olive in colour.

Hunting strategy

After biting its prey, the snake waits for the venom to take effect, although birds are generally not released after being caught.


A black mamba's bite can kill a person, although fatalities are rare. Their venom differs throughout their range.

Lacobson's organ, in the roof of the mouth, helps to detect scents and quarry.

Gallery of Black Mamba