The green mamba is a shy, elegant, and highly venomous snake belonging to the elapidae family (Elapids are snakes that have a pair of hollow fangs, with which they inject venom into their prey when they bite).
The green mamba is an extremely venomous snake that is commonly found along the coastal forests of southern and eastern Africa, which includes parts of Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Malawi, etc.
These large snakes have a slender and compressed body with medium or long tapering tail. You may notice their head to be elongated narrow and in the shape of a coffin.
The green mamba is a large, slender snake that is usually bright green in color. The belly is yellowish-green. Juveniles can be blue-green, but turn bright green as they grow.
The adult eastern mamba snakes have bright green upperparts with a pale yellow-green belly. The juveniles can have blue-green color; however, they become brighter with time due to successive skin shedding. The inner part of their mouth can be bluish-white or white. Furthermore, the pupil border can be narrow bright in color with golden yellow edges.
The neck is long and slender and is often described as ‘coffin-shaped’. It is slightly demarcated from the neck by a prominent canthus. When threatened, the green mamba can flatten its neck area in the classic threat pose. However, no real hood is formed.
The average size of the female is about 2 m. and the male is slightly smaller at about 1.8 m.
The eyes are medium-sized with round pupils. The iris is olive-green but becomes bright green towards the posterior.
The inside of the mouth is bluish-white, with long front fangs that are hollow, and can inject the venom into the prey when bitten.
The green mamba is an extremely venomous snake. Its venom consists of both neurotoxins (cause damage to the nervous tissue) and cardiotoxins (damage the heart tissue).
Symptoms of a green mamba bite include swelling of the bite site, dizziness, nausea, difficulty in breathing, irregular heartbeat, and even convulsions. Eventually, if untreated, death occurs by respiratory paralysis.
If you encounter one, it is better to step back and call for help.
Home and Habitat
The green mamba is primarily arboreal, that is it lives among the foliage in trees. It is native to dense, shaded vegetation in the coastal areas of Africa. Because of its bright green color, it is spectacularly camouflaged and blends extremely well into the greenery of the trees.
It is quite agile and adept at climbing. Unlike its cousin the black mamba, the green mamba is seldom found in open terrain and prefers to stay in dense vegetation. The rare occasion when it comes out in the open ground is to bask in the sun for the purpose of thermoregulation.
The green mamba is diurnal, that is it stays active and hunts during the day. At night, it coils up amidst the foliage or sometimes in a hollow trunk or branch.
The green mamba primarily preys on small animals like birds, bats, rodents like rats or mice, and eggs.
It is an ‘ambush predator’, that is it sits and waits for its prey, unlike other elapids and even mambas which actively hunt and forage for prey. The green mamba is dependant on their sense of sight for hunting, rather than their sense of smell. are carnivorous reptiles. They can prey on eggs and birds as well; however, in some cases, they may also prey on bats. Some studies reveal that these snakes can also eat arboreal lizards also. They can also attack squirrels, rats, and mice.
The green mamba is considered quite shy and elusive. That they blend well into the environs makes it harder for them to be spotted, and confrontations with humans are quite rare. Even so when a confrontation happens, the green mamba is not as aggressive as its cousin the black mamba and would bite only when provoked, harassed, or cornered. Cases of green mamba bites are thus relatively rare, but it is still an extremely venomous snake. When harassed or cornered, it will attack with multiple, swift bites, and chances of envenomation are very high. If untreated, the bite can be fatal.
The green mamba is known to live a very sedentary lifestyle and can stay in the same area for days and even months, moving only for food or mating purposes.
Mating and Reproduction
The breeding season for green mambas is during the rainy season between the months of April and June.
The males prefer to look for potential mating opportunities while establishing a dominant nature. The male fights can sometimes last for several hours. The males can identify the females by tracking their scent and they court by aligning the body across females while doing continuous tongue flicking.
While they usually spend a sedentary lifestyle, the male green mamba will actively search for a female partner during the mating season. The courting, as well as mating, usually takes place in trees.
The green mamba is oviparous, and the female lays small, long eggs in the summer months. The eggs are usually laid in a hollow tree for the sake of protection, and there are usually about 10 to 15 eggs in a clutch. The mother green mamba is not very protective of its eggs and will leave them in the hollow.
The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has not assessed the conservation status of the green mamba. It is found quite commonly within its range, and its numbers are not considered to be declining.
However, human activities such as deforestation and habitat destruction, especially following human inhabitation and construction in coastal forests, poses a potential threat to this deadly yet elegant creature. In fact, owing to habitat destruction, the green mamba has been labeled as ‘vulnerable’ in South Africa.
To Sum Up
The green mamba is an elegant yet deadly species of snakes. Owing to its brilliant camouflage and shy temperament, confrontations with humans are quite rare. While its numbers are quite stable at present, habitat destruction poses a threat to its population.