Wildlife Species of the Week

The Boomslang, Dispholidus typus

Boomslang means tree snake. The name comes from the Dutch word “boom,” meaning “tree,” and “slang,” meaning “snake.” It is a slender, highly venomous snake from the family Colubridae, the most prominent snake family, with approximately 2000 species. Other members of the family include water snakes, racers, rat snakes. The snake has distinct large eyes with an egg-shaped head, and they can grow up to 2 meters long. They exhibit sexual dimorphism because males and females differ in color. Males have a variety of shades, from solid bright green with a combination of black to colors of black and yellow. Females, on the other hand, have a dull olive-brown or grey color.

These snakes are economically significant as they are biological controllers, controlling the population of birds, lizards, chameleons, frogs, small mammals. They are also preyed upon by some predatory birds. Some species of boomslang show cannibalism and feed on their members.

This snake possesses some exceptional characteristics. Due to their color and habitat, they can camouflage pretty well and hunt for prey. When food is detected, the snake freezes moves its head from side to side (mimicking vegetation branches), and swiftly attacks its target. It has a superb hunting ability with the added advantage of exceptional eyesight.

When threatened, the boomslang inflates its neck in an S-shaped attacking pose, appearing bigger and scaring away the threat. But, if the threat persists, the snake won’t hesitate to strike using its fang to inject its deadly venom. The venom is haemotoxic, affecting the victim’s circulatory system, i.e., affecting the blood clotting function.

The boomslang is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa.  It is found in countries like Botswana, South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Nigeria, Southern Chad.

Boomslang is a solitary reptile with the least concern conservation status. They occasionally communicate with other Boomslangs. And as stated earlier, they feed on other members of the same species. They spend most of their days camouflaged and hunting in a tree. Some live-in warmer climates and hibernate during cooler weather.