The Bushmans Poison Bulb
July 6, 2016
Show all

The Boomslang or Tree Snake

shutterstock_334712705The boomslang is a relatively small venomous snake which is also colour blind. The boomslang is known to be the only species in its genus. The name boomslang means “tree snake” directly translated from Afrikaans

The boomslang is an oviparous species. The eggs have a relatively long (3 months on average) incubation period. Hatchlings are greyish with blue speckles. They attain their adult coloration after several years. Their diet includes chameleons and other arboreal lizards, frogs, and occasionally small mammals, birds and eggs from nesting birds, all of which they swallow whole. During cool weather they will hibernate for moderate periods, often curling up inside the enclosed nests of birds such as weavers.

Many members of the family Colubridae that are considered venomous are essentially harmless to humans, because they either have small venom glands, relatively weak venom, or an inefficient system for delivery of venom. However, the boomslang is a notable exception in that it has highly potent venom, which it delivers through large fangs that are located in the rear of the jaw. The venom of the boomslang is primarily a haemotoxin. It disables the blood clotting process and the victim may well die as a result of internal and external bleeding. Other signs and symptoms include: headache, nausea, sleepiness and mental disorders.

Because the venom is slow to act, symptoms may not be manifest until many hours after the bite. On the one hand, this provides time for procuring the serum, while on the other hand it may lead victims to underestimate the seriousness of the bite. Snakes of any species may sometimes fail to inject venom when they bite aptly named a “dry bite”, so after a few hours without any noticeable effects, victims of Boomslang bites may believe (wrongly) that their injury is not serious.

Adult boomslang has 1.6–8mg of venom. Various sources give figures ranging from 0.06-0.72mg/kg being sufficient to kill mice in 50% of cases, if the venom reaches a vein.

Despite all of this, the boomslang and other snakes are gentle creatures and will only attack when they are put in a situation they don’t want to be in. Most of the time the snake will see you before you see it and it will move away. Any snakes prerogative is to always avoid contact with humans as they are not by their nature, a conflict species. So next time you find a snake please don’t kill it, rather find some one that knows how to handle snakes safely and get the person to remove the snake for you .

In this picture you will see a male boomslang who is resident at Tilney Manor. This is an example of how people and snakes can live peacefully in the same environment.

by Christopher Bettesworth
Game Ranger
Tilney Manot