Kruger Park Wildlife Facts | Snakes

Kruger Park snakes

There are 54 species of snakes found in Kruger, only nine of which are deadly poisonous. Although the black mamba is often portrayed as the most dangerous snake in Africa, 90% of bites to humans are actually by the Mozambique spitting cobra and the puff adder.

The largest African snake – the python – is fairly common, but difficult to see. It can grow up to five metres in length and kills its prey by wrapping its body around the victim and crushing it. It’s very rare to come across snakes in Kruger, even during the guided wilderness walks.

Snakes tend to shy away from humans and only attack if they’re caught by surprise. Nonetheless, one should be cautious at camps and lookout points. If you come across a snake in a camp, please alert the camp staff immediately.

Other notable reptiles in Kruger are two species of monitor lizards (leguaans), the water and the rock monitors. The water leguaan can be up to two metres long and is found at permanent water sources in Kruger. It feeds mainly on fish, crabs, mussels, small animals and birds.

Rock monitors can be found quite far from water in rocky outcrops and crevices. They grow up to 1,5m and feed on small mammals, birds, eggs, other reptiles and insects.

The Killer Snakes of Kruger

African Rock PythonAfrican Rock Python (Python sebae)
Characteristics
Largest snake in Africa – up to 5m long; crushes its prey to death; generally nocturnal but seen during the day
Prey
Dassies, hares, cane rats, birds; has been known to take impala and young antelope and warthogs
Habitat
Mixed woodlands near water; very good tree climbers

Egyptian CobraEgyptian Cobra (Naja haje)
Characteristics
Largest cobra, approx 1,5m long; when disturbed it rears up and displays a broad hood; very fast moving striker with toxic venom
Prey
Small mammals, birds and their eggs, frogs
Habitat
Mixed woodlands near water

Black MambaBlack Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis)
Characteristics
One of the most poisonous snakes in Africa; about 2m long; very fast strikers and can slither at speeds of up to 15km/h
Prey
Birds, rodents, dassies and other small animals
Habitat
Dry lowveld bush; lives in abandoned termite hills, animal holes and among rocks; loves basking in the sun

Puff AdderPuff Adder (Bitis arietans)
Characteristics
Responsible for more human bites than all other African snakes combined – most attacks are because it is trodden on; front fangs make venom delivery extremely effective; sluggish, fat snake about 1,5m long
Prey
Rodents, birds, other snakes; a puff adder has once been recorded killing a tortoise
Habitat
Very fond of lying in the sun; found in all Kruger habitats – one of the most widely distributed snakes in Africa

Mozambique Spitting CobraMozambique Spitting Cobra (Naja mossambica peters)
Characteristics
One of the most poisonous snakes in Africa; rears up two-thirds of its body length when disturbed, displays hood and spits venom with amazing accuracy (they can spit venom into the eyes of an aggressor three metres away);average length approximately 1m
Prey
Birds’ eggs, small mammals and reptiles
Habitat
Mixed savanna woodland; favours hollow trees and abandoned burrows near water

Twig SnakeTwig Snake (Thelotornis capensis)
Characteristics
Slender, fast-moving tree snake about 1,3m long; can stay motionless for long periods of time; well camouflaged and very poisonous
Prey
Birds and their nestlings and eggs
Habitat
Mixed woodland near water


BoomslangBoomslang (Dispholidus typus)
Characteristics
Highly venomous, greenish tree snake, about 1,5m long
Prey
Birds’ eggs, small mammals and reptiles
Habitat
Thick woodlands near water

Illustration: Chris Snaddon



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