The Green Snakes Of Durban and Kwa-Zulu Natal
If you’ve seen a thin green snake in your garden in Kwa Zulu Natal chances are it’s NOT a Green Mamba or Boomslang, but rather of one the four harmless green snakes.
Including the 6 green snakes there are eighty-three different types of snakes found in Kwa-Zulu Natal, of which fourty-four species are not venomous; eight can cause painful although not lethal bites; and, eleven that are known to be potentially deadly.
- VENOMOUS GREEN SNAKES:
Green Mamba – Dendroaspis angusticeps
Common Boomslang – Dispholidus typus viridis
- HARMLESS GREEN SNAKES:
Spotted Bush Snake – Philothamnus semivariegatus
Green Water Snake – Philothamnus hoplogaster
Eastern Natal Green Snake – Philothamnus natalensis natalensis
Western Natal Green Snake – Philothamnus natalensis occidentalis
Arguably the most impressive and iconic venomous green snake in Africa. The Green Mamba is an impressive snake averaging around 1.8m but can grow towards length of 2.5m.
A brilliantly coloured lime green robust snake that seldom ventures down to the ground and spends the majority of its time in dense foliage and tree’s where it actively hunts its prey, such as birds, small mammals like rodents and squirrels. These snakes occour only in a narrow astrip along the coast, seldom venturng further than 7km inland. As a general rule of thumb, if you cannot see, smell or hear the sea you will not find Green Mamba’s there.
The Green Mamba has an impressive coffin shaped head which is quite distinctive from the body and not easily confused with any of the other harmless green snakes. It has a lime green belly and bright green upper side with occasional with have the an odd few bright yellow scales. These are shy snakes are often will avoid confrontation and flee into foliage, bites are uncommon and usually on snake handlers who are attempting to catch these snakes.
The Green Mamba is found all the way from Kosi Bay in the North down a narrow strip along the east coast just entering the Eastern Cape in the region of the Umtamvuna river which serves as the border between Kwazulu Natal and the former Transkei region. There are several unconfirmed reports of Green Mambas around the Port St John’s region but haven’t not be confirmed.
These snakes are strictly tree-dwelling animals and seldom venture down to the ground, with the exception being to feed or drink. Boomslangs are not commonly found in Durban due to their secretive nature and excellent camouflage. They are one of the few snakes in Southern Africa that are sexually dimorphic, meaning that the males and females feature different colouring. Often the males are bright green, and the females dull brown/grey or olive. Juvenile snakes are brown/grey with speckles, and have a brilliant emerald-green eye. Averaging around 1.5m in length, Boomslangs can often reach close to 2m. These snakes rarely bite people, and are docile in nature. They possess a potent haemotoxic venom, for which there is an antivenom available. It solely deals with bites from these snakes, and is called a monovalent antivenom.
A vibrant green and black slender snakes, the Spotted Bush Snake is an excellent climber and often found around homes and outbuildings. They are the most common of the Green Snakes found in Durban. These highly active snakes hunt geckos, which make up most of their diet; these snakes are particularly fond of Tropical House Geckos. Unfortunately for the Spotted Bush Snake they are killed in large numbers after mistakenly being misidentified as Green Mambas or Boomslang.
This is the lesser-seen of the harmless green snakes found in Durban. The Green Water Snake is much smaller than the Spotted Bush Snake (Philothamnus semivariegatus) and Eastern Natal Green Snake (Philothamnus natalensis natalensis) and only averages around 60cm in length. They prefer to live in damp areas around ponds and rockeries, as well as in dense bush. They feed largely on frogs, small lizards, and geckos. They can sometimes be seen sleeping in low bushes and shrubs near water. They are placid snakes which seldom—if ever—attempt to bite, and many people see these snakes when bought into the house by domestic cats.
These snakes are far less common in Durban than the Spotted Bush Snake, and they tend to prefer dense coastal forests and thick bush along the coastline. They occasionally enter homes built in and around natural vegetation. They are a robust snake, typically a bright emerald green with a yellow underside, but can also have a few black transverse bars on the dorsal side of the body. Much like the Spotted Bush Snake (Philothamnus semivariegatus) the Eastern Natal Green Snake (Philothamnus natalensis natalensis) is mistaken for the much larger Green Mamba or Boomslang and is needlessly killed.
The Western Natal Green snake is absent from coastal Durban only occurring south of Amanzimtoti and inland from around Kloof west Of Durban. Often confused with the Eastern Natal Green Snake (Philothamnus natalensis natalensis) by amateur herpetologists and laymen alike.
These snakes are similar in nature to the Eastern Natal Green snake where they favour dense vegetation although will often seek refuse near the ground amongst the lower undergrowth where the feed on small geckos, frogs and lizards. The key factor between these and the other green snakes is the dark almost pitch black iris of the snake with blue flecks seen between the scales when the snakes become irate. In Durban and Kwa-Zulu Natal they do not always have the turquoise colouration on the head and tail as common in the Eastern Cape region.