The most fascinating snakes found in Uganda

The most fascinating snakes found in Uganda

Snakes Found In Uganda – Snakes often face unfair stereotypes from the communities they occasionally encounter, but it’s crucial to understand that humans are not their prey. Instead, we should acknowledge their valuable contributions to society, including their role in tourism and controlling rodent populations, among other benefits. Uganda is home to four out of the world’s six deadliest snake species.

Uganda’s tropical climate provides an ideal habitat for reptiles, thanks to year-round rainfall, extensive freshwater ecosystems including swamps, rivers, and lakes, as well as dense forests and grasslands. With over 171 snake species calling it home, Uganda offers a diverse environment for these creatures. However, there’s no need to worry as only a small fraction of them are venomous. In this episode, we delve into some of the commonly encountered species you might come across during your travels in the country.

Here are rewritten versions of the amazing snake facts:

  1. Snakes cannot breathe and swim simultaneously due to the absence of a diaphragm.
  2. Fangs are exclusive to venomous snakes, serving as conduits for injecting venom into their prey.
  3. Despite the widespread fear of venomous snakes, they primarily use their venom to incapacitate prey rather than for defense against humans. Since humans are not their typical prey, venomous snakes may sometimes bite without injecting venom.

Africa’s largest snake, with a length exceeding 5 meters from head to tail, features a striking gold and black mottled skin. This non-venomous species relies on strangulation and constriction to subdue its prey before swallowing it whole.

The python possesses a unique endoskeleton, allowing it to widen its jaws extensively while hunting. Additionally, its lack of a breastbone enables it to consume prey much larger than its own body size.

Females typically lay up to 100 eggs, with an incubation period lasting between 2 to 3 months. Hatchlings emerge at lengths ranging from 50 to 60 cm.

The African puff adder  (Bitis arientans.) Local name: Ssalambwa

The African puff adder, a member of the viper family, typically inhabits dense vegetation like tea plantations. Recognizable by its sturdy, compact build and large triangular head, it measures between 1 to 1.2 meters and displays light yellow-gold and black coloring.

Equipped with two prominent hinged venom fangs in the front of its upper jaws, the puff adder strikes its prey multiple times. Its venom is potent, usually fatal to animals, and even with treatment, a person bitten by this snake may succumb within six months. Local accounts suggest that encountering a puff adder in a plantation prompts people to avoid the area until the next day, as these snakes rarely attack unless provoked.

Despite their venomous nature, vipers, including puff adders, are generally placid creatures. They earn their name from their defensive behavior of inflating their bodies and emitting a loud puffing sound when threatened, serving as a warning to potential threats.

Female puff adders emit pheromones to attract mates and give birth to live offspring in significant numbers. These newborns typically measure between 12 to 18 centimeters in length.

Skilled both in swimming and climbing, puff adders prey on a variety of animals, including birds, lizards, mammals, and amphibians. Bites from these snakes result in twin cuts and severe pain, with swelling often appearing within 10 to 30 minutes, leading to paralysis.

Cobra Local name: Enswera

There are numerous species of cobras found in Uganda, including the Forest Cobra (Naja melanoleuca) and the Black-necked Spitting Cobra (Naja nigricollis). These snakes inhabit savannas and semi-arid regions, displaying both diurnal and nocturnal behavior depending on the season.

Renowned for their highly venomous nature, cobras are known for their ability to raise their upper bodies to survey their surroundings and intimidate threats. The Black-necked Spitting Cobra possesses a particularly dangerous skill, accurately projecting venom up to 3 meters away, potentially causing partial or complete blindness, intense burning, and loss of coordination. Growing up to 3.5 meters, the Forest Cobra, also known as the Black Cobra, seldom bites but should be treated with caution due to its venom, ranked as the fourth deadliest.

Cobras primarily prey on small rodents and occasionally insects, although they themselves may become targets for predators like the African snake eagle. Considered one of Uganda’s most captivating reptiles, cobras can be observed up close at the Uganda Reptile Village.

Gaboon viper. (Bitis gabonica) Local name: Ssalambwa

Measuring approximately 2 meters in length and boasting a robust build, the Gaboon Viper sports a distinct black and brown skin pattern, accented with velvety purple and brown hues, ideal for blending into the forest floor of rainforests where dried leaves are prevalent. This viper ranks among Africa’s deadliest snakes, possessing potent venom while maintaining a calm demeanor, commonly inhabiting tropical rainforests and woodland areas.

Some individuals can weigh up to 20 kilograms, making the Gaboon Viper the heaviest venomous snake. With a large triangular head tapering into a narrow neck, reminiscent of the puff adder, it shares a common local name, Ssalambwa.

Featuring the longest fangs among snakes, measuring up to 4 centimeters, the Gaboon Viper also displays horn-like projections atop its head, situated between its raised nostrils. When threatened or approached too closely, it emits a warning hiss.

These vipers exhibit ovoviviparous reproduction, meaning their eggs hatch internally, and they give birth to over 30 live offspring, each measuring approximately 30 centimeters in length.

Feeding primarily on birds, insects, rodents, and small mammals, the Gaboon Viper thrives in its preferred habitats of rainforests and woodlands.

Black mamba () Dendroaspis polylepisLocal name: Ttemankima

The black mamba stands out as one of the deadliest snakes, with its bite capable of killing as many as 10,000 men according to some reports. Its venom ensures swift and certain death, often taking effect in as little as 20 minutes. Even experienced handlers have fallen victim to this snake due to minor mishaps like a simple skin cut, highlighting the extreme danger it poses. Quick-witted and agile, the black mamba can navigate through tight spaces and scale trees from low-hanging branches without needing to climb the trunk.

Equipped with two large venomous fangs at the front of its mouth and solid teeth in both jaws, adults typically reach an average length of 4 meters. Their coloration ranges from grey to olive, with lighter scales present along their bodies. The name “black mamba” stems from the dark interior of their mouths. Despite their slender appearance, these snakes are highly venomous and should be handled with extreme caution.

Emerald snake () Corallus caninusLocal name: Nawandagala

This snake is frequently found in Ugandan gardens, where its adept camouflage makes it a master of disguise. Armed with a set of teeth, it relies on them to subdue its prey. Despite its presence in banana plantations, it is seldom killed due to its non-venomous nature. Feeding primarily on flying and crawling insects, it serves as prey for birds that specialize in eating snakes, including chickens.

Egg eating snake ()Dasypeltis

This snake possesses a limited number of solid, harmless teeth and lacks fangs, typically measuring between 0.5 to 1.5 meters in length. Despite its slender appearance, its mouth muscles exhibit remarkable elasticity, enabling it to consume whole eggs. Once ingested, the egg is crushed by the snake’s strong internal muscles, and the broken shell is subsequently expelled. Often despised in African households due to the misconception of snakes being inherently deadly, encounters with this species lead to both financial loss and fear among families.

Displaying captivating color patterns of green, grey, and brown, with a lighter cream and white underside, this snake lays over a dozen eggs. These eggs hatch after a period of three months, giving rise to hatchlings measuring up to 30 centimeters in length.

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