Eastern Green Mamba
The Eastern green mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps), is a large mostly arboreal and highly venomous snake found in the coastal regions of southern East Africa. Their range stretches from the Eastern Cape in South Africa through Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Eastern Zimbabwe and Southern Malawi.
The species can be found in coastal lowland tropical rainforests, coastal bushlands, dunes, and montane forest at elevations up to 4,900 ft (1,500 m) above sea level.
The eastern green mamba is mostly arboreal, meaning it lives in trees, only on rare occasions will it descend to the ground to forage, drink or bask in the sun. Because of its coloration, it's very well camouflaged in trees or bushes, for that reason it prefers relatively dense vegetation and is rarely found in open terrain.
Like the other mambas the eastern green mamba belongs to the genus Dendroaspis of the family Elapidae, and was first described in 1849 by Dr. Andrew Smith a Scottish surgeon and zoologist. They are the smallest of the recognized 4 species of mambas.
Their generic name "Dendroaspis" derives from Ancient Greek and translates literally to tree snake. This refers to the arboreal nature of the majority of the snake species within the genus, the exception being their fearsome cousin the black mamba.
The eastern green mamba specific name "angusticeps" derives from the Latin and literally means "long narrow head" referring to the species particular shape of the head. They are also commonly known as the East African green mamba, common mamba, white-mouthed mamba or simply green mamba.
It's a relatively large snake with a slightly compressed, and very slender body, with adult females averaging approximately 6.6 feet (2.0 m) in length, on average males are slightly smaller around 5.9 ft (1.8 m).
In rare occasions, some specimens may exceed a length of 8.2 ft (2.5 m).
Like their name indicates the body dorsal scales are a bright green, and the belly is a yellow-green, some specimens are speckled with a few bright yellow scales on the flanks.
Their head said to be coffin-shaped, is flat-sided, narrow and elongated and slightly distinct from the neck, with medium size eyes and round pupils.
The juvenile eastern green mambas are blueish-green, and attain the brighter green coloration in successive skin sheddings, in progression from the front to the back of the body.
When provoked or harassed the eastern green mamba may elevate the front part of their body and flatten the neck into a narrow hood. They may also gape and hiss, although not as often as the black mamba.
They won't always strike, but if cornered, they can suddenly attack and strike several times in a quick succession, which often leads to cases of severe envenomation. But these are very fast snakes, and are capable of moving up to 7 mph so most of the times they will try to escape by ascending the nearest tree and disappear in the dense foliage.
Venom / Bite
The Eastern green mamba is a highly venomous snake, in cases of severe envenomation fatalities have occurred in as little as 30 minutes. Their venom is primarily neurotoxic, and contains a complex mix of dendrotoxins, calcicludine, cardiotoxins, and fasciculins.
The dendrotoxin present in the venom is common to all mamba species and it's the most fast-acting snake venom toxin known, for that reason their bite mortality rate is very high.
But just like all other mamba snake species, the venom's toxicity varies greatly from one individual to another depending on factors like geographical region, specimen's age, diet, seasonal variation, etc. The average dry weight venom yield in a single bite is about 60 to 95 mg and the subcutaneous LD50 value in mice is 1.3 mg/kg.
The bite symptoms include swelling of the bite site, dizziness, and nausea, irregular heartbeat, convulsions, accompanied by difficulty breathing and swallowing, which may rapidly progress to respiratory paralysis.
In some rare occasions their bite resulted in tissue damage, usually located on the fingers or because of the use of a tight tourniquet.
Diet / Feeding
The eastern green mamba preys primarily on other small mammals, adult birds and birds eggs, rodents,bats and it's also believed that they arboreal lizards as well. The young snakes usually feed mainly on other reptiles like chameleons and other small lizards.
Observations show that the eastern green mamba is not your typical active foraging elapid snake, but instead is more of a "sit-and-wait" or ambush type predator like most viper snakes.
Eastern green mambas are solitary snakes, except during mating season, that takes place during the rainy season between April and June. This is also when they become the most active, as males "fight" each other in ritualistic combats in which one tries to force the other down.
These combats may last for several hours but don't include biting and the combat nature isn't as aggressive as seen among their much larger cousin, the black mamba. These combats are very similar to those practiced by male king cobras.
The male snakes find females by following a scent trail, being arboreal snakes both courtship and mating takes place in the trees. In the summer months of October and November females lay anywhere from 4 to 17 eggs, usually in a hollow tree, leaf litter or among decaying vegetation, for an incubation period of 10 to 12 weeks.
When the young snakes hatch from the eggs, they are approximately 12 to 16 inches (30 - 40 cm) in length and highly venomous right from birth They grow 20 to 31 inches (50 - 80 cm) in the first year, as they age, the growth rate decreases but never stops completely.
Conservation / Threats
The eastern green mamba conservation status has yet to be assessed by the IUCN. The species is fairly common throughout its geographical range and habitat, also the population trend is thought to be stable, like many other snakes habitat destruction and deforestation pose a possible threat to the species.
Did You Know?
Cleopatra supposedly used the highly venomous Egyptian cobra or asp to kill herself.