A Special Snake Encounter in Tanzania - Observation of the Week, 11/15/22

Our Observation of the Week is this Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis), seen in Tanzania by @thbecker!

Thomas Becker grew up in the German town of Arnstadt, next to the Thuringian Forest. For over two decades, Thomas worked as a journalist and editor in chief at a local paper. “I used to be more of someone who could enjoy nature but saw it more as a setting for activities (hiking, cross-country skiing),” he says, “[but] about ten years ago, my attitude changed fundamentally.”

And that was because at that time I moved with my wife from Germany to Tanzania, where we have been working in tourism ever since. I have always been a passionate photographer, but more interested in landscapes than details. Now, living at the foot of the mighty Kilimanjaro, I dived deeper into nature than ever before.

About four years ago, Thomas and his wife Heike began managing the Lake Chala Safari Lodge, within sight of Kilimanjaro. “Here, in a 580-hectare protected area, our passion for nature has intensified once again. Until then, I had only used iNaturalist occasionally to identify animals or plants, but in 2020 we launched the Lake Chala Wildlife project to document the impressive biodiversity of the area.” 

Nearly 700 observations of almost 300 species have been recorded in the project so far, and three of those observations record encounters with black mambas. 

[The snake above] is not the first black mamba we've seen here, but it's the biggest. And it was the first one that wasn't in a tree or disappeared straight away. I was sitting on the terrace in front of our house when the snake came closer. It registered my presence, raised its head slightly, but showed no form of defensive behaviour. I was able to get the camera and take pictures while it was observing the surroundings and possibly looking for food. We have many rock agamas living here, but also other potential prey. After a while she turned around and disappeared into the bushes. An encounter of a very special kind.

Africa’s longest venomous snake (2 m/ 6 ft 7 in), black mambas are quick diurnal predators that feed on birds, small mammals, and similar prey. The black mamba often moves with its head and neck raised, scoping out its surroundings. When threatened, it will try to escape but, if cornered, flattens its neck and opens its mouth, displaying black mouth tissue. Black mambas range throughout much of eastern and southern Sub-Saharan Africa.

Thomas (above, at Sequoia National Park), joined iNat just over four years ago, and uses it not only to document organisms around Lake Chela, but also when he travels.

Wherever I am now, I look around much more consciously, enjoy both the big and the small animals and try to learn something about them. Knowing what's living in the neighbourhood also means taking a closer look at it. It's no longer just a bird, but a Verraux's Eagle circling in the sky. How big is it, what does it eat? Are the snakes around us dangerous? How should one behave in nature? What can one do to protect the environment?

I have learned so much from iNaturalist. Or rather, through the people who make iNaturalist what it is. A huge database that unites experts and amateurs in an effort to better understand nature, identify developments and help conserve habitats.

(Photo of Thomas by Heike Becker)

Publicado el 16 de noviembre de 2022 a las 07:27 AM por tiwane tiwane


Mambas are the only animal to give me the heebeejeebees.
Missed you at the Great Southern Bioblitz which just finished! Perhaps next year areas in Tanzania will take part?
Keep up the great work.

Anotado por tonyrebelo hace más de un año

Way to go, Thomas! And please continue keeping an eye out for bats, your observations shared with AfriBats are also wonderful. Maybe next time you will document a mamba preying on a bat?

Anotado por jakob hace más de un año

We need more identifiers in Africa - even I am in the top 3 identifiers on that project. Simply by working thru the Rest of Africa (beyond my own South Africa) Unknowns.

Anotado por dianastuder hace más de un año

Awesome! Sounds like a dream to live and work in such a place. I'm happy to see mambas getting some recognition for their beauty, even though they can be dangerous. Your observation shows that they are not aggressive, which many people deny or do not expect.

Anotado por amdurso hace más de un año

Wow, what a terrific snake that is, and what a great naturalist you are Thomas!

Anotado por susanhewitt hace más de un año

I am overjoyed that my picture was chosen as Observation of the Week. Thank you also for the kind comments. I will continue to walk with open eyes through everyday life and especially through our beautiful home here at Lake Chala in Tanzania.

Keep up the good work everyone. Best regards, Thomas

Anotado por thbecker hace más de un año

Lovely one! Beautiful snake that absolutely has the power to make my brain shut down in panic.

Just a note for @tiwane - the size listed for the species is a bit low; they can reach that by year old. They often approach 3.8m, and they are reported to reach 4.5 on occasion.

Anotado por william6 hace más de un año

A special moment, well captured.

Very much deserving of 'observation of the week'.
My encounters with mambas have on every occasion been far too tense for both parties.
And, yes, I'm quite sure they get closer to 4m.

Anotado por wynand_uys hace más de un año

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