Black Mamba
Photo Essay: The Snake Charmers

View photos of Thea Litschka-Koen and her husband, Clifton, as they try to save lives and change attitudes about the black mamba, Africa’s deadliest snake.

  • carly

    How could you touch the snake i would scream if i came 1 mile away lol

  • JOHN M GARNVWA

    Dear Thea Litschka-Koen and Clifton, this is to say thank you and well done for the job you are doing. We also experience problems of snakebite in sub Saharan Africa. A lot of deaths due to bites from Echis Ocellatus snake. I was really touched by Thea emotions and involvement of finding the shoes of the little girl that died as a result of the mamba bite when I watched your programme on BBC. It is great to hear that the government is getting involved. You are the voice of these rural dwellers and may God bless you and your husband. Amen

  • Thea Litschka-Koen

    Carley,
    LMOL!! When I was being taught to work with Mambas I nearly did! Once I had it in my hand I just couldn’t find the courage to drop it in the bucket :).

  • Thea Litschka-Koen

    John,
    Why can’t we Africans get our act together? Snakebite on our continent is reaching epidemic proportions and our governments are not aware of the situation!

    That week 3 children died that I know about, am sure there were more that were never reported. It was very sad..the father asked me to find her shoes, he said “we want them to come home”. Once we got back to their homestead he washed the shoes so very carefully and lovingly. The entire film crew was crying by then..

  • Sharon

    Hi, I grew up in the bushveldt of Swaziland near the Pongola Border, Mambas cropped up all the time….Once my brother was chased by one! He said it refused to give up, he said they look in your eyes like an agressive human, they let you know you cannot boss them. My gardner killed on outside my house there, it was huge! I now live in Spain, than goodness there are no Mambas here. I salute you!

  • Sharon

    Is The green Mamba as bad as the Black Mamba? I have seen both in my youth

  • Thea Litschka-Koen

    Sharon,
    No, the Green mamba is not as venomous but you might still need urgent medical attention. Thanks for the compliments!

  • Courtland

    Thea, Where can i take snake training at?

  • Thea Litschka-Koen

    Courtland, where are you based?

  • Jamie

    Thea, same question. However I’m less likely to find it as I live in the UK.
    I’m off to Brisbane mid 2010 and hopefully over to SA in a couple of years.
    Is there anywhere in Australia that I can get training?

  • Fezzoh

    I believe the underlying lession is simply the respect that these serpents demand and deserve. They are simply deadly!!!! Black or Green. Respect the MAMBA.

  • Koko Sasongko

    A great citizen scientist story! One of the broader issues that this program illustrates, and impresses me personally, is the move towards a more understanding-based knowledge as opposed to the more common fear-based one. One doesn’t need to spend a lifetime inside the ivory tower be knowledgeable on a subject.
    On this occasion, I would like to thank Mrs. Thea Litschka-Koen for inspiring me and dub you the Jane Goodall of black mamba. I hope others will be inspired as well to refrain from the “kill-all” approach towards “dangerous” animals and start getting to know their “neighbors”.
    WELL DONE!!!

  • ritch williams

    Why? There must be thousands, tens of thousands of these deadly snakes. They’re certainly not endangered and will bloody well kill a human being. Are they really worth protecting? If so, why?

    I love animals, but poisonous snakes have always been a problem for me. I don’t ‘hate’ them and am not afraid of them, but there are limits to the numbers that we need and the numbers that need to exist in an area.

    What is the overwhelming need that exists for maintaining, if not increasing the population of the mamba?

    Thank you.

    Ritch

  • cynthia

    Thea Litschka-Koen- I must agree with ritch willams. ….What is used to control the increasing birth of the mamba from becoming an increasing danger to humans? You said you caught 14 in one week. They do not birth just one so now it will be 27 the next week until they are overwhelming the people their. Work on the anti venom or while you have them under figure a way to make them sterile that is the solution! Let the Mamba be protected and live when people can live safely with them and the anti venom is available to these people so another little girl does not die! Your study is great in tracking them and learning about them but please don’t release them back. I am sure there will be enough Mambas in your area to keep you working the rest of your life without putting humans at risk for the KISS OF DEATH!

  • landon

    that svery hardey snake. it is also one of the most deadlyist snakes. i would love to get my hands on one.

  • Koko Sasongko

    Ritch and Cynthia,
    put your bible or whatever holy book you’re reading down and pick up an introductory biology book! read up on food web and see how other beings interact! black mamba as one of the top predators control the population of, say, rats. i’m sure it’s easy for you to kill the black mambas and use chemicals heavily to control the pest population because when you get cancer from exposure to those chemicals you’re close to hospitals. but these villagers are not as lucky as you are. by studying the mambas’ behavior, thea’s team may be able to predict their movements and educate the villagers and keep nature’s balance intact.
    then there’s the bigger question: if we can’t stop ourselves from sending other species to extinction, how can we help ourselves from the same fate in our own hands? respectful understanding, and not fear-based annihilation, may keep us awhile longer on this fragile earth.
    cheers!

  • Nancy

    Thea, just saw the pbs program about the mambas. I lived in Swaziland between 1985 and 1990. We were at Siteki. We always thought there was a female who made her home under our house pad (concrete). We killed (I’m sorry) 14 mambas in 2 1/2 years. I may be returning to Swaziland later this year. Can you tell the name of your refuge and where it is? I would like to schedule a visit, or at least make contact with you.

  • TOM

    Just watched your program and wanted to thank you for your good work with these beautiful reptiles it would be great to hear what you have learned with the telemetry in a couple of years time .
    I wanted to respond to above comments about not releasing them back into the wild. Most places humans go they cause loss of habitat and endanger species. The natural world is a balance and mother nature evens this balance out. things start going wrong when humans need for land or naturals resources upset the balance so I believe education is the key and mother nature will take care of the rest.
    keep up the good work Thea Litschka-Koen and your husband

  • Wendy

    Your program on the Black Mamba was very informative. I applaud your work with these animals. What stunned me is that snake-bite victims unable to afford anti-venom medicine are forced to wait out the toxin in hospitals even though the medicine is readily available. Are there any humanitarian aid agencies looking into helping these people?

  • Ochieng Odugu

    Hi Koen, am suprised by the comments that i do see here. The Black Mamba is the king of all snakes in Africa, very polite and ready to fight if provoked.Our grandfathers lived with these animals peacefully until the white men came with the bible and in it they described the snake as the devil.The fear of the snake in africa is superstitious and is based on false facts from the bible. In my culture Black Mamba is a sacred snake and am forever going to protect it.

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