Black Mamba and curious squirrel
Photo Details: A young tree squirrel (Paraxerus cepapi) watches the progress of a black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepsis) as it slithers along a branch a few inches below, Mashatu Game Reserve, Tuli Block, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS 400D (Digital Rebel XTi); Lens: Canon EF70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM; Focal Length: 300mm; Shutter speed: 1/320; Aperture: f5.6; ISO: 400; Exposure comp: +1.

Black mamba moving along branch

Additional Info: This scenario occurred mid-way up a tree, only a few meters from the verandah of our accommodation in Mashatu Game Reserve. We watched with some trepidation, as the young squirrel seemed intent on staying put and watching the black mamba rather than taking flight.

Mambas can raise about a third of their body length off the ground and strike swiftly, so it certainly looked like the squirrel was in real danger of becoming the snake’s next meal. Then, in the blink of an eye, the squirrel had disappeared (right) and the mamba continued on its way.

It eventually slithered into a hole in the trunk of a tree right next to a path we regularly used. For the remainder of our stay, anyone walking that path did so with extreme caution. For more about the extremely venomous black mamba, arguably Africa’s most dangerous snake, see
Black Mamba Myths and Other Snake Stories.




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+Scotch Macaskill