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The black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) is probably Africa's most feared snake, and justifiably so. It is an aggressive animal, armed with venom capable of killing humans in less than four hours. However, its reputation for unprovoked attacks on humans in unjustified. A black mamba will only attack if it feels threatened. Nonetheless, when it does attack it rarely fails to bite.

Raising its head up off the ground to a height of 1.2m, black mouth agape, the mamba charges. It can reach a speed of 161kph, making it one of the fastest snakes in the world.

Clearly the black mamba is a very successful predator. Hunting by day using its excellent eyesight, it usually bites its prey a couple of times and then lets go. The stricken animal may make off but in a very short time it is paralyzed by the snake's toxins, and then swallowed headfirst. Mambas often attack birds, shooting into the air as the birds try to fly away. Adult black mambas are so formidable that they have no natural predators.


ARKive photos and video of the black mamba

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