Green Mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps)
The Green Mamba is not significant to fisherman in Zimbabwe as it widely distributed and therefore not likely to be encountered. This is in spite of the numerous fisherman who will swear blind that they saw a green mamba while fishing at farm dam or on the river. The fact is Green mambas are only found in the Honde Valley, particularly Katiyo Tea Estate, the surrounding Communal Lands, parts of Aberfoyle Plantations and parts of Nyanga North and usually below 500m. In KwaZulu Natal they are restricted o the coast....my experience while living in the Durban area in the early 70’s, was that they were not found more than 2 kilometres from the beach, except along the rivers, where they extended a little further inland. In Mozambique and Malawi they are a bit more widespread, but restricted to the southern parts of Tanzania and the coastal regions Kenya. They have not been found in Zambia.
Green mambas are a bright emerald green colour. If you get close enough (yeah right) you will notice that the mid-body scales each have a yellow edge to them and the skin underneath is black, creating a striking contrast. They are fairly large, not robust like the cobras but also not slender like the vine snakes. They can reach a length of just over two metres. The head shape is very similar to the black mamba, with a moderately sized eye...a distinguishing feature to compare with the boomslang which has a large eye. The boomslang is the only other large green snake that may be confused with a Green mamba. Small Green mambas can, however, be confused with a number of other snakes, particularly of the genus Philothamnus....bush snakes, eastern and Angolan green snakes.
They are arboreal snakes and prefer thick bush....mango trees and bamboo thickets are favourites in the Honde Valley. They only come down to the ground to hunt for prey or to change trees. Prey consists mainly of birds and fledglings but they will take rodents and occasionally agamous and lizards. The eye has around pupil, which indicates that it is a diurnal hunter. They lay up ten eggs in the summer which hatch about two and half months later. Bites from these snakes are significant and will need treatment if serious.
The venom and symptoms are similar to the black mamba i.e. neurological, but not as potent. Bites are rare as they are seldom encountered on the ground and in any case, will move away very swiftly through the trees to avoid confrontation. The Herpetological Association of Zimbabwe was formed for people with an interest in snakes and other reptiles, and their conservation. If you are interested in becoming a member, give us a ring on Harare 091 251 684 or drop us a line giving your name, address and contact telephone number and send it to: 6 Alice Lane, Avondale, Harare.