… NOT to be repeated!
It is a myth that only cobras spit venom – Black Mambas (Dendroaspis polylepis) do too. I know, because one spat at me!
I am getting ahead of myself.
You must know that the Black Mamba is one of the most feared snakes in Africa – with good reason: its venom is highly toxic for it contains both neurotoxins and cardio toxins. The first affects the nervous system, while the latter attacks the heart.
Another fact worth bearing in mind is that a Black Mamba is not black, rather it is named for the black colour of the inside of its mouth – I doubt if you would wish to be that close to one for a good look. The body tends to be a uniform brownish-grey or olive colour that helps it to blend into its surroundings very easily – except when it happens to be inside the toilet at a picnic spot in a game reserve!
Despite the fearsome reputation the Black Mamba has garnered, it is apparently not an aggressive snake and – like many other snakes – would rather head away from humans than choose to attack them. Of course, if the snake is cornered in a toilet then it would naturally feel threatened and raise its front and head off the ground to deter the perceived threat – and it will spit, injecting large quantities of venom in a spray!
Don’t expect a clear picture – I had to snap and turn away in a hurry.
This is what happened: I was photographing butterflies when I heard my sister-in-law call out that there was a snake in the toilet. Being the curious one that I am, and with a camera in hand, I thought I would take a closer look. There was this innocuous looking snake just inside the door of the rustic toilet … I raised my camera to photograph it … and it raised itself off the floor … I turned away and jumped back just in time as I saw the spray of venom in the sunlight, some landing on my trouser leg.
Fortunately, it was not aggressive but simply wanted to get away. Instead of heading out of the door, it turned back towards the toilet – had it been resting from the heat there? I hastily took one more photograph and left it in peace.
What a clottish thing to do, you are bound to think. Believe me, I have been given a flea in my ear from more than one member of my family. The thing is, at the time it was simply a snake – it was only after consulting the field guide that I realised what I had been up against. This was truly a case of ignorance is bliss.