A black mamba snake.

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Mambas are fast-moving venomous snakes of the genus Dendroaspis (which literally means “tree asp”) in the family Elapidae. Four extant species are recognised currently; three of those four species are essentially arboreal and green in colour, whereas the so-called black mamba, Dendroaspis polylepis, is largely terrestrial and generally brown or grey in colour.

The black mamba has quite a reputation. It is one of the world’s deadliest snakes. It is the fastest land snake in the world, and the longest species of venomous snake in Africa and the second longest in the world. Only the King cobra grows longer.

How Fast Are Black Mambas

Slithering at speeds of up to 12.5 miles per hour or 20 km/h only the sidewinder snake, a venomous pit viper snake is faster at 29 km /18 m per hour.

Popular accounts say that the snake can balance itself on the tip of its tail, however, this is not true. Donald Strydom, reptile expert and owner of Khamai Reptile Park near Hoedspruit, says many locals believe a whirlwind is caused by the speed and power of the black mamba as it moves on its path of seek and revenge. Others believe a huge crested black mamba, which moves like the wind, roams and guards the Mariepskop Mountains.

The black mamba is named for the colour of the inside of its mouth, which is black. This is clearly displayed when it is threatened. The snake has a matt, brownish-gray body with a light belly. Its preferred habitat includes termite mounds, hollow tree trunks, granite hillocks and moist savannah and lowland forests.