Step in line, humans! You’re the superior animal on the planet, sure, maybe, but do you have two-inch fangs loaded with the milk of death? Can you choke a cow with your body? If someone is kicking you, can you bite their ankles to stop them…forever? Maybe you’re not as awesomesauce as African snakes then. Here are 10 African snakes to respect and fear that are among the most lethal on any continent.
Sources: Britannica.com, Goafrica.about.com, Nationalzoo.si.edu, Whozoo.org, TLCAfrica.com, Venemoussnakes.net, Capesnakeconservation.com
A rich yellow color variation is painted up and down the gleaming body of the Cape cobra, although darker-toned ones (purplish, copper, mahogany) are also common. It depends on the region — the yellow varietal is found mostly in the Kalahari Desert of Botswana and Namibia, while the ones found in South Africa all the way to the Cape coast have a shadowier tint. They’re known to be anxious and aggressive. It takes about four hours for the venom to work through a grown human’s body. Paralysis leads to respiratory failure, with a 60-percent mortality rate from bites.
Of all the venomous snakes in Africa, this one is the heftiest, weighing in at approximately 18 pounds (eight kilograms) and around seven feet (two meters) long. It also carries the highest reserve of venom in its body of any snake globally. Unlike the Cape cobra, these are relatively passive ground dwellers, although to spot one is to fear one. They’ll kill a lumberjack-sized man. They have facial features that include horn-shaped projections on the snout that kind of make it look like they’re wearing a freaky cat mask. They also have the longest fangs of any snake in the universe, which stay embedded in the flesh of their prey until it’s dead. They’re found in the forests of most of sub-Saharan Africa.
Two thirds of the world’s snake species are categorized as colubrid, of the colubridae family — that’s about 1,760 different species. The boomslang is one of the only ones that can end a human’s life with a bite. Male boomslangs (translation: tree snake) are a vibrant green with black scales, and the females are a dusty brown. Both reach about five feet in length and can camouflage well on the ground and in trees. While the boomslang is a very timid snake, thee’s nothing timid about its bite. Here’s how the journey to glory can go after a bite: the haemotoxic venom clots the blood, causing the internal organs to shut down. There’s bleeding from every orifice. Respect and fear.
This really potent snake inhabits folklore and history. Many believe it was the asp Cleopatra used to off herself. Fast moving and ornery (aka dangerous to living things) when crossed, it’s found mainly in the sands of the North African deserts, but its range also extends further east into the Asian continent. The toxicity of its venom varies, as does its method of using it: some spit by a muscular contraction of the venom ducts, and some just bite. The most lethal ones in Africa can kill an elephant in three hours. Anything smaller than an elephant should probably take heed.
The smallest of all the mamba species, the lemon-lime-colored eastern green grows to an average length of 5.9 feet (about 1.8 meters). It’s full of venom which bodes poorly for those who may tamper with them for sure, but it’s far less aggressive than its darker-colored sibling. Green mambas are arboreal, and rarely come down from the East African tree branches (they’re mostly found in Kenya) they wind through. When they’re born, they’re yellow, but then turn into a very shiny, very lovely lime green color. If threatened, they’d rather run, and can slither away at about seven miles per hour.
This monster is usually out after dark, which is when most of its hapless human victims have been bitten. In Africa it mostly inhabits dry or savanna regions north of the equator, but the eight saw-scaled viper species are found as far across the globe as Sri Lanka. Dry-looking and the color of dirt, their scales rub together to produce a sizzling or sawing sound, hence the name. They’re also categorized as sidewinders for their sideways motion. They move slowly, but can strike quickly, and their sour temper coupled with quick-acting venom has not fared well for some folks.
Another arboreal inhabitant found in the lush woods of West Africa from Gabon to Guinea, this snake is a sight to behold: a solid green the color of the healthiest leaves, it has faint yellow spots running along its dorsal. These snakes are quite small, with adults reaching only about 20 inches (50 centimeters) in length. While bites are not common, they’re an emergency if they happen, especially because there’s no established antivenin. Their venom is haematoxic, which means that blood will clot, often leading to fatality if untreated.
According to Venemoussnakes.net, the puff adder is responsible for the majority of fatal snake bites on the African continent. This has been attributed partly to the lack of infrastructure in rural areas that could slow efforts to rush someone to a hospital to receive treatment. It’s quite the ubiquitous snake, found in all areas from Africa to Southeast Asia excluding rain forests. Puff adders in the Southern African region reach up to 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) long. They are heavily set and brown with chevron-like patterns running along the back. The combination of patience and camouflage make this snake dangerous to stumble upon — they’ll stay motionless on the ground for weeks waiting for a meal. Their cytotoxic venom causes swelling, extreme pain, and shock.
Danger! Danger! This guy will feign death in a strategic way in order to avoid being molested, then turn the tables and make the would-be attacker the victim. Considered the second most dangerous snake in the world, this cobra is really a marvel. In order to disable its prey, it will spit venom up to eight feet (2.4 meters), usually aiming for the eyes. Its juice can cause blindness in a human being. While other cobras spread their hood before spitting, the Mozambique does not need to, and can launch from any position. Found mostly in the savannas of subtropical Africa, it prefers watery areas…and to be left the hell alone.
Let’s start with its neurotoxic venom: it attacks the nervous system, reducing the ability to see, smell, move, and breathe. It’s the most aggressive snake in Africa and the fastest (it can run after you at 12 miles per hour or 20 kilometers per hour). It’s the largest of the continent’s venomous snakes (up to eight feet or 2.5 meters in length), and its venom is strong enough to kill up to a dozen people in an hour. This is because the black mamba can strike up to 12 times in a row, pumping venom into one or multiple victims each time. Sub-Saharan Africans know to watch themselves, to watch the trees above, and to tread lightly on the ground. #Kingofthejungle