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The beautiful boomslang

Female boomslang, Pretoria. Photo: Johan Marais
Female boomslang, Pretoria. Photo: Johan Marais

The boomslang – as its name suggests – is a mostly arboreal snake, identified by its large eyes, sturdy head and strongly keeled body scales. (This means that its scales have a ridge down their centre, making the snake rough to the touch.)

It varies in colour depending on where you are. In the Western and Eastern Cape, males are usually dark grey to black, with yellow, orange or green sides; while females are brown in colour.

Elsewhere in southern Africa, males are sometimes bright green – often with black between the scales, which gives a chequered effect; while females are mostly brown. Juveniles shorter than 80 cm in length are never green, but rather a grey to grey-brown colour with big emerald eyes. The boomslang is hands down one of the most venomous snakes in Africa. Its venom is potently haemotoxic – this means it disrupts the blood-clotting mechanism in the body, which can result in uncontrolled bleeding many hours after a bite.

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