|Did You Know?
The well-known herpetologist, Karl Schmidt died of a boomslang bite.
The boomslang snake is a terrestrial snake which is native to Africa. The meaning of its name comes from the two Afrikaans words where boom means 'tree' and slang means 'snake'. It is a long and slender snake, and spends most of its time in the trees and shrubs. Occasionally, it comes down to the ground to search for food. It is a good climber and has an excellent camouflaging ability. It is the only known species in its genus. Let us now go through some more interesting facts about the boomslang.
Range and Habitat
This colubrid species mostly lives on trees and shrubs, which is why it is also called an arboreal creature. Occasionally, it comes down to the ground. It is found in the east African lowland forests, karoo scrubs, dry savannas, grasslands, and fynbos. It is well-distributed in Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Chad, and Guinea.
The boomslang has a very small head. The head is stubby and egg-shaped while the eyes are enormous and prominent. The face is blunt. The pupils are pear-shaped. The eyesight of these snakes is better than most other snakes. They can grab hold of birds in flight, due to their very good eyesight.
Teeth and Fangs
They have seven to eight small teeth and venom fangs at the back of their jaws.
The females range from a greenish brown to olive and have pale brown bellies while males are found in a variety of colors. They vary from olive to bright green with black or brown scales and have a bright yellow or gray belly. Boomslangs in newly hatched or immature stages, have a gray color and blue patches.
Size and Weight
They are medium-sized snakes. Their size ranges from about 4 feet to 6 feet. They weigh around 0.3 to 1.1 pounds.
Boomslangs possess rows of carinated scales.
They hunt during the daytime in the trees and bushes, where they lie motionless and wait for a prey to land. They have the ability to move with great swiftness and agility. Boomslangs possess excellent eyesight and color vision. Their sense of smell is poor, but they can feel the ground vibrations. They are solitary creatures and do not need to communicate with other animals until they feel periled. They inflate their neck and release a foul odor when they feel threatened. They bite only if caught or provoked. For this reason, they are known to be shy and non-aggressive. They may hibernate for a short time during the winters.
Boomslangs feed on chameleons, lizards, small mammals, birds, bird eggs, and frogs. To attack the prey with their venom, they open their mouth wide apart to an angle of hundred and seventy degrees and use fangs to wrap the prey around the flesh and kill it. The fangs are folded back inside the mouth when not in use. They then inject the prey with their haemotoxic venom and swallow it. The prey is pushed down their body to the stomach.
The snake's venom is haemotoxic and acts very slowly after injection. The symptoms are seen after several hours. The venom inhibits the blood clotting mechanism of the body and leads to bleeding in the internal organs. A boomslang's bite can cause headache, nausea, and sleepiness, and lead to hemorrhage.
Boomslangs are oviparous. During the mating months, i.e. December and January, the male and female snakes mate in a tree or on the ground. The males leave a hormonal trail to attract females. After about 56 days, the female boomslang lays around 30 creamy-white eggs in tree holes, logs, or among leaves. Once the eggs are laid, the boomslang leaves them there. The young snakes hatch after about three months. At birth, they are around 25 cm in length. The hatchlings require feeding every two or three days.
It is estimated that boomslangs have an average life span of eight years. They live slightly longer in captivity because they are saved from predation.
Other large carnivorous birds native to southern Africa prey upon boomslangs. It is also preyed on by snakes of the same species.
Boomslangs are not classified as endangered or threatened. They are enlisted as a least concern species by the IUCN Red List.