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Green Mamba

Scientific Name: Dendroaspis angusticeps

What’s in a Name?

The name mamba often conjures up visions of an aggressive venomous snake. However, by taking the time to investigate, one might find that first impressions can be deceiving. Dendroaspis means “tree” and “small venomous snake.” Green Mambas fit this description very well. They are shy, slender snakes that rarely exceed 7 feet in length. They spend most of their time in trees and bushes.

Up on the Roof

The Eastern Green Mamba favors coastal climates and dry tropical forests. They range from Kenya to Zimbabwe and also inhabit areas of eastern South Africa. Long and thin, Green Mambas are well-suited for an arboreal lifestyle. Mambas hunt by sight and are fond of rodents as well as birds and bats. As their common name implies, Green Mambas have bright green scales with a yellow-green underbelly. The fluorescent green color allows them to blend in with the surrounding vegetation. These agile animals are superb climbers and travel effortlessly along vines, leaves and branches. Green Mambas also climb onto thatched roofs of local villager’s huts. Sometimes they even crawl into a native beekeeper’s hollow-log hive and take up residence.

Demure But Dangerous

Mambas are in the same family as other venomous snakes, such as cobras and coral snakes. Green Mambas seem to avoid human contact and will retreat if disturbed. However, they will attack if bothered and even a defensive bite from the Green Mamba delivers a potent dose of venom.

Out on a Limb

If you are looking for the Green Mambas at Riverbanks Zoo, don’t forget to look up. Even in captivity, these animals prefer an arboreal way of life. Riverbanks’ Mambas are displayed in the Tropical Gallery of the Aquarium Reptile Complex. Their exhibit looks like part of an African Village. The reptiles are usually seen lounging on one of the thin branches in the exhibit or occasionally, moving across the thatched “rooftop.” Green Mambas are found in many zoological collections and fortunately are not endangered in the wild.