Black Mamba

By: Alexia Garvin


The Black Mamba is one of the worlds deadliest snakes. They are Africa’s longest venomous snake and can reach up to 14 feet long but 8.2 feet is more the average. They are also the fastest snakes in the world and can slither at speeds of up to 12.5 miles per hour. The snakes are known to be very aggressive and very toxic. They tend to strike repeatedly and release large amounts of venom with each strike. They are considered a top killer in southern and Eastern Africa where they are responsible for 20,000 deaths every year.


Black mambas live in the savannas and rocky hills of southern and eastern Africa. They like low, open spaces and enjoy sleeping in hollow trees, rock crevices, burrows, or empty termite mounds.


Just two drops of potent black mamba venom can kill a human. Just like cobras and coral snakes, Black Mamba venom contains neurotoxins. The venom has been described as “fast-acting.” The neurotoxins in the black mamba’s venom shuts down the nervous system, causes muscle paralysis, eventually killing the victim through respiratory failure. Without antivenom, the odds of death from a black mamba bite is 100 percent. Fatalities from black mamba bites have been documented to occur within 20 minutes after being bit. However, most known fatalities have occurred within 30 minutes to 3 hours or longer.


If bitten severe neurotoxicity often occurs: common symptoms are rapid onset of dizziness, drowsiness, coughing or difficulty in breathing, convulsions, and an erratic heartbeat. Other common effects are neuromuscular symptoms, shock, loss of consciousness, low blood pressure, paleness, loss of control of bodily movements, excessive salivation, limb paralysis, nausea and vomiting, fever, and very severe abdominal pain.

Neurological and Neuromuscular Symptoms of Poisoning

  • Respiratory paralysis or Dyspnea
  • Excessive salivation
  • Drowsiness
  • Restlessness
  • Sudden loss of consciousness
  • Ptosis (drooping of eyelid because of paralysis)
  • Palatal paralysis
  • Glossopharyngeal paralysis (causes difficulty swallowing or tasting)
  • Vertigo (loss of balance)
  • Fasciculations (spontaneous contractions)
  • Limb paralysis
  • Ataxia (loss of control of body movements)
  • Head drooping (Cervical muscle paresis or paralysis)
  • Headache
  • Local pain or Numbness around bite site (tends to be mild)

General Symptoms

  • Shock
  • Hypotension
  • Abdominal Pain (may be severe)
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Regional lymphadenopathy (swelling of lymph nodes)
  • Fever
  • Epistaxis (nose bleeds)
  • Flushing of the face
  • Warm skin
  • Increased Sweating
  • Pallor (paleness)