Black Mamba
Snake Handler Thea Litschka-Koen Answers Your Questions

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Thea Litschka-Koen

Submit your questions here for snake handler Thea Litschka-Koen, featured in Black Mamba. During the week of Monday, November 9, Thea will answer your questions here.

Thea Litschka-Koen was born in Swaziland and is the third generation in her family to live there. She initially became interested in black mambas after one of her sons chose snakes as a school project. Soon after, she found herself doing a lot of fascinating research and ultimately enrolling in handling and identification courses, and her involvement grew from there. Enlisting her husband, Clifton, in her efforts, Thea began responding to emergency calls from locals, removing and rescuing snakes they found. Each call-out is a daunting proposition, even for this intrepid and experienced couple. After a successful rescue, on-site demonstrations help assuage some of the fears Swazis have about the mambas that will always live among them. Thea also founded a reptile park where some of her rescued snakes could be released and where people could learn more about snakes, as well as how to handle some of them safely.

Submit your questions for Thea in the comments field below.

Teresa asks:

Have you ever been bitten by a black mamba, or another particularly dangerous snake?

Thea says:

Teresa,
Luckily not! Clifton and I have to be extremely careful every time we go on a callout. With a black mamba bite, paralysis occurs within 45 minutes. In Swaziland we do not have a hospital with an ICU that has life support equipment and there is little or no antivenom. The closest hospital that is properly equipped to deal with snakebite is in South Africa, a good 2.5 hours drive away. The border between the two countries is only open between 7am and 6pm, another obstacle.

The closest I have ever come to a bite was during one specific callout. Somehow I managed to get my finger on the snake’s fang. It did not bite me, so there was very little venom. Within a few minutes my hand started to tingle and I had a very bad metallic taste in my mouth. Luckily the symptoms disappeared within an hour or so.

Alona asks:

Are black mambas deadly snakes?

Thea says:

Alona,
Absolutely! Its bite is deadly and commonly known as the “kiss of death.” In Swaziland and many other African countries, almost everyone who gets bitten by this notorious snake dies (because of the lack of antivenom and life support). One mamba has enough venom to kill 8 to 14 adults. The venom is a very quick acting neurotoxin (a substance that damages, destroys, or impairs the functioning of the nervous system). The first symptoms are usually felt within 15 minutes — much sooner if the victim is a small child. The bite itself is often relatively painless, with very little or no swelling. Breathing difficulties soon develop, which ultimately leads to respiratory paralysis and death. This often happens within 45 minutes, or if you are lucky, a few short hours. It is a frightening way to die, fighting to breathe whilst slowly becoming totally paralysed. The worst part is your brain remains totally unaffected. The victim is aware of everything and everyone around him but he cannot move, swallow, talk or breathe.

Josh asks:

Are black mambas an endangered species?

Thea says:

Josh,
Not at all. We rescue between 80 and 120 black mambas a season from people’s homes, offices, schools — basically anywhere a snake can crawl into. One of the most memorable was a little girl’s school bag! Her mother asked her to fetch her lunch box, and when she opened her little backpack she came face to face with the snake. She was very lucky indeed as it must have crawled in at school. At the end of the school day she apparently threw in her books, zipped up the bag, put the bag on her back and got onto the bus for the 30-minute ride home. All the snakes we rescue, about 500 or more a season, are released.

Karen says:

Is there a safe, non-toxic repellent that would discourage mambas and other venomous snakes from entering homes and areas inhabited by humans?

Thea says:

Karen,
There is no chemical, plant or spell I know of that repels snakes — we have tested them all extensively. Common sense is all that’s needed. We teach people to keep their homes and gardens neat and tidy as rodents attract snakes, and piles of rubble provide the perfect refuge.

Sean Bush says:

Keep doing what you are doing Thea: saving people from snakes and snakes from people.

Thea says:

Thank you Sean. I look forward to working with you again and am absolutely positive that together, we can make a difference.

Anne Vogelbruck asks:

Being from Swaziland and knowing the Lubombo area where you do most of your work, I know how remote it is, how bad the roads are and how few hospitals and clinics there are. Do you receive any financial or moral support from parastatals or governments, or do you have to find funds yourself to keep this programme going?

Thea says:

Anne,
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we have been unsuccessful in obtaining moral or financial support. Up to now, Clifton and I have personally funded the costs of the call-outs, which are substantial considering the number of snakes we rescue. Snakebite, in Swaziland, is a cruel reality that is fast reaching epidemic proportions. People are being maimed and are dying because antivenom is not readily available and even if it were, is so expensive that the ordinary citizen cannot afford the treatment. We try our best to assist as many snakebite victims as possible by supplying antivenom, paying for medical care and counseling, but are limited financially. Tragic but true.

Heather asks:

How does the black mamba compare overall to the Australian Tai-Pan?

Thea says:

Heather,
Any snake that has the ability to kill a person is, as far as I’m concerned, number 1 on the list. Current studies use mice (how long it takes to kill the critter) as a benchmark, called the LD50 test. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. What needs to be considered is how common the snake is, number of bites, number of deaths, etc. to determine how dangerous the snake is. Although the Tai-Pan is considered one of the most venomous, it’s not necessarily the most dangerous or deadly snake. Who cares where the snake comes on the list LD50 list -– if it can kill you, it’s deadly.

Debra and Mike ask:

We will be doing mission work in South Ethopia and Central Kenya in June and July. What do you advise us to do in order to be as safe as possible from unwelcomed snakes?

Thea says:

Debra and Mike,
What I would suggest you do is find out which venomous snakes occur in the area, what they look like and where to go in the case of a medical emergency. Many rural or even government clinics and hospitals do not have antivenom so make sure the clinic you choose has knowledgeable staff and a good supply of the life-saving drug. Find out who offers snakebite first-aid courses -– knowledge is power. When you are in Africa you need to be vigilant and aware at all times. Make sure your clothing is appropriate, that you keep the doors and windows closed and always, but always, check your shoes before you put them on!

Heather Johnstone asks:

Regarding snake bite care, have you explored homeopathic remedies? These can be low cost and very effective for this type of issue. The snake bite homeopathic remedies can be made from the tiniest bit of venom.

Thea says:

Heather,
To be honest I have not studied the option in detail. The local traditional healers in Swaziland use what can only be described as a homeopathic treatment. Although I do not know the exact ingredients, I know they use roots, bark and venom. Too often the only option many people here have is to visit traditional healers as they are easily accessible and affordable, and although many traditional remedies are very effective for some ailments, they are totally unable to treat the life-threatening consequences of a venomous snakebite, such as that of a black mamba.

Bryn Evans (via his mom, Aimee) asks:

Bryn would like to know how pervasive black mambas are in Africa: Just in Swaziland or all over? What other deadly snakes are a “problem” in Swaziland?

Thea says:

Bryn,
The black mamba is found in Swaziland, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Malawi, and the Congo. There are seven deadly snakes in Swaziland: Mozambique spitting cobra, snouted cobra, forest cobra (vary rare), rinkhals, puff adder, boomslang and vine snake. The snake responsible for most bites in Swaziland is the Mozambique spitting cobra and is extremely common (we rescue close to 250 a season). A bite from this snake in particular is terrible. It causes massive tissue damage and requires extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation. Bites from puff adders are also common. They are active at night, brilliantly camouflaged and as a defense mechanism, freeze when approached (most other snakes will flee). This is when they get stepped on and the consequence is a defensive bite. Then there is the snouted cobra, which, in my opinion, is the “forgotten” snake. It has venom very similar to that of the black mamba, is very common, and gets away with murder!

Graham asks:

The program said you implanted 4 snakes but only three were mentioned later –- did one die, and if so, was it recovered and the cause of death determined? Have you implanted any others subsequently?

Thea says:

Graham,
In actual fact 11 snakes were fitted with transmitters. Because the documentary is only an hour long, a decision was made to highlight the movement of 4 only. All the snakes that were part of the study are still doing extremely well -– except for poor Twiggy that is.

Helen Ayiteyfio asks:

What part of Swaziland are these black mambas the most common? I was watching your show on PBS here in Atlanta, Georgia and I am originally from Swaziland in Nhlangano.

Thea says:

Helen,
Hi there! Good to hear from an (ex) Swazi. Black mambas are very common in the hot lowveld areas -– basically the Lubombo region that includes areas like Big Bend, Simunye, Tambankulu, Mhlume and Tshaneni.

Brandy asks:

Dear Thea,
What has been your biggest obstacle to overcome with educating people in Swaziland? I do domesticated snake education (no deadly snakes for me!) but am often astonished by the fears and prejudices I have to overcome with my perfectly safe, nonvenomous pets.

Thea says:

Brandy,
One of the most difficult questions I get asked is, “How can you be so passionate about snakebite victims and snakes?” The people in Swaziland fear and hate snakes –- very often with good reason. Going on a call-out to catch a snake that has just killed a child is heartbreaking. The family members want me to kill the snake immediately. They want revenge! The hatred is often palpable. Can I blame them? No. Until we can improve or eliminate the current mortality rate, it will remain a precarious situation. It is our ambition to seek funds to build a medical centre in the Lowveld of eastern Swaziland, where most venomous snakes occur.  This clinic will distribute antivenom where needed, treat snake bite victims and provide the aftercare to patients who have been bitten.  It will be coupled with a reptile park where snake venom will be reaped for the production of antivenom and an education centre where I will endeavour to teach people to recognise, handle and prevent unnecessary snakebites and, at the same time, conserve our wonderful reptile population.

Delores McElroy asks:

How expensive is anti-venom? How can a fund be started to assist in this matter?

Thea says:

Delores,
Antivenom is very expensive and unaffordable for most people here in Swaziland. The cost to treat one mamba bite is about $1,000 — almost a year’s salary for many people. Education and the availability of anti-venom are required to stem the ever increasing snakebite tragedies. We must continue to visit schools, communities, companies and hospitals to educate people on the correct first-aid and medical treatment. We need to increase people’s knowledge of snakes. They need to identify and differentiate between venomous and non-venomous snakes. They must be taught what to do when they encounter a venomous snake. Many are bitten while trying to kill snakes. But, most importantly, we need to assure that our medical facilities are adequately equipped to deal with snakebite. Antivenom is the only specific cure for a venomous snakebite, without which more lives and limbs will most surely be lost. Please have a look at our webpage: www.antivenomswazi.org.

Phil Gent asks:

The young girl who lost her life to a mamba bite, if she had boots would that have saved her life? How do you donate items or money for anti-venom for those poor individuals in Swaziland?

Thea says:

Phil,
Unfortunately boots would not have helped her. Tengetile was playing hide-and-seek with her younger brothers and sisters and was hiding behind a termite mound when she got bitten on her back. The snake must have been sunning itself on the mound and when she crouched behind it, the snake was startled and bit defensively. She ran to her homestead, which was only a few hundred meters away, to look for her mother. Symptoms were almost immediate because of the location of the bite (torso) and because she ran (venom spread rapidly though her system). She didn’t stand a chance. Please visit our webpage: www.antivenomswazi.org.

Tanya asks:

How hard is it to catch a black mamba?

Thea says:

Tanya,
It’s not very difficult; there is a specific technique we use, which is totally different to catching any other snake. What makes it tricky is the location of the snake. Sugarcane is the most frightening -– you can’t see where you are going, the cane cuts your hands and face and the mud makes it almost impossible to walk. Second on the nightmare list is probably a room filled with furniture or junk –- at night… The old heart beats furiously and the hands remain a little clammy until it’s spotted.

Chris Johnson asks:

I was so glad I caught the show because that had to of been the greatest show highlighting the black mamba continue the great work and the only question I have is are you still tracking the mambas and if you are could you email progress you have made and also if that was Sean Bush the venom 911 physician I would like to say im a hugh fan of yours.

Thea says:

Chris,
Thank you for the compliments! Because of the relatively short lifespan of the telemetry units all the snakes that were part of the telemetry study were recently recaptured and the telemetry units removed. The data collected will be analyzed and a paper published shortly. I will tell Dr. Bush he has another fan!

Tanya asks:

How many minutes do you live when you get bitten by a black mamba?

Thea says:

Tanya,
There are several factors that affect the severity of a bite. Snakes have the ability to control how much venom they inject. A “dry” bite means they do not inject any venom at all (unfortunately this doesn’t happen very often with a mamba) or they inject just a little, classified as a mild/moderate bite, or if you are really unlucky they give it everything they’ve got and this will result in full envenomation, called a severe bite. It also depends on the body size of the victim, the position of the bite (torso and head are the worst), physical condition of the victim, first-aid applied, etc. It can take anything from a few minutes to three hours to die.

Spencer Ward asks:

Thea I saw your show on PBS and noticed that you used snake tongs from Midwest but what brand of tong was Clifton using…..they didn’t look familiar at all. Thanks Spencer

Thea says:

Spencer,
Clifton’s tongs were custom-made by someone in South Africa and have fondly been nicknamed the Decapitator. They are very gentle but extremely heavy, not ideal to work with if you are a woman or if the rescue takes a while.

Kevin Plitt asks:

Thea Can I come Work at you snake park and help catch and educate people about snakes its my destiny!!!???
Kevin

Thea says:

Kevin,
I love it when people are passionate about snakes! Unfortunately work permits are almost impossible to get in our line of work. The government is very strict and has never approved any of our applications.

Patricia Haythorne asks:

Oh, it does my heart good to see how you are doing with the black mamba. I just think you are a very wonderful person, to be spending your time in the pursuit of saving animals and saving people. The U.S. is a violent, kill, kill country, so I am really really happy to see you on PBS. THANK YOU, THANK YOU. wORDS JUST CANNOT EXPRESS HOW APPRECIATIVE i AM, FOR YOU AND FOR YOUR HUSBAND.

Thea says:

Patricia,
Thank YOU for your kind words and encouragement. It’s not always easy to find the balance in life, to understand that every creature plays an important role in the circle of life. If we had to destroy every animal that could cause us harm, there would be precious little left.

Virginia asks:

Excellent fascinating show! What did happen to Twiggy?

Thea says:

Virginia,
Twiggy was my favourite mamba. She was always very calm and allowed us to approach within a few feet. More often than not, we would spot her near the rat breeding cages. About a month into the telemetry study Philane found her there again but this time the rats had attacked and killed her.

Christine Brownfield asks:

I found your program to be really fascinating and the work you are doing will benefit not only people but the black mamba itself. What I really loved was the fact [that] you have a pet orphaned baby warthog!!! How adorable! I fell in love with warthogs when I traveled in Namibia in 2007 (fortunately the safaris were in May not during snake season!!) It is a shame that the government of Swaziland does not make more effort to provide treatment and antimvenom for its people, considering those rather impressive sugar cane plantations, seems like there is money floating around.

Thea says:

Christine,
Piggy is no longer a cute baby but an extremely large pig! She absolutely adores Clifton, probably because he lets her get away with murder. We are letting her roam as she pleases and she is often away for days on end. Every now and then we spot her with a large group of wild pigs but she always comes back for a scratch and a treat.

John asks:

Thea, great program. Good to see Swaziland after many years. Where exactly do you live? You cannot cover the whole country, small as SD is – how far do you go on rescue mussions? Where is the game park you mention? I taught at schools near Nhlangano, in Manzini and Ezulwini many years ago with the Peace Corps.

Thea says:

John,
Thank you, glad you liked it. I am based at Simunye, in the northeast of Swaziland. When we first started assisting with the removal of problematic snakes, Clifton and I covered the entire country. It was very difficult, and we often had up to 15 people waiting for us to come to the rescue. For the last few years I have been running snake ID, first-aid and handling courses. Now there are three people based in the Mbabane/Ezulweni area that assist with call-outs in that area. They do not catch mambas (not that we get too many requests from that area) but are very willing and prepared to catch everything else. A very good friend of mine, Chad, based in Big Bend, goes on call-outs in that area. He is absolutely brilliant and catches all snakes and other reptiles -– you should see that youngster run -– no snake can get away from him! All of these people are volunteers; they use their own private vehicles, time and money.

The reptile park was based in Nsoko, close to Big Bend. The park did not belong to us, we only rented the premises. About six months after the film crew left Swaziland, we received notice that the owner intended to increase the rent by 300 percent. Guess he thought the exposure was going to bring in millions. It became totally unaffordable, and we had no choice but to leave. The reptile park has since been changed into a restaurant. This is why the King gave us a piece of land, to build a new reptile park and snake bite clinic. We are still rescuing snakes, visiting schools, assisting bite victims and doing what we always do -– just have to start from scratch with the reptile park.

Joe asks:

Is it possible to set bait traps for mambas, or is active trapping currently the only way to catch them?

Thea says:

Joe,
Traps do work to some extent, especially if it is a place that we can’t reach.

Susan Whitney says:

Hello :) Bless your heart for all your work and research. At this moment, my husband and I are watching your captivating show on PBS. I’m writing to you from Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.
Stay safe! :)
Susan

Thea says:

Hi Susan! Thanks!

Kerri Muir asks:

Hi Thea,
When watching this program and seeing how many people are maimed or killed by these snakes, I just thought “Why couldn’t each village have at least one shot of the anti-venom?” How costly is this venom? Wouldn’t there be a way to get people (Americans) involved in an effort to raise funds to provide each village with a sort of “Emergency Call Box” with an anti-venom shot in it -– located centrally in the village? If they would at least have that chance, then they might buy some time to make it to a hospital or medical facility.

Thea says:

Kerri,
That would be ideal, but unfortunately it’s not that easy. Antivenom is a wonder drug, there is no doubt about it, but it also a drug that can have severe and deadly side effects. It should only be administered by someone who is trained to recognise these symptoms. The second problem is the quantity required to treat a bite. For a mamba bite, a minimum of 8 vials (often much more) is needed to neutralize the venom. The third problem is the cost. It is expensive. One vial costs about $100. Together with some passionate friends like Dr. Sean Bush, David Williams and many more, we are trying to raise funds and find sponsors to stock the hospitals and clinics with enough antivenom to treat the victims. Please have a look at our webpage: www.antivenomswazi.org.

Nancy asks:

Do you at least have anti-venom for yourself? Have you ever been asked to milk the black mamba for its venom to help produce anti-venom? Have you ever considered writing a book about your snake job? Thank you for the courage to help others.

Thea says:

Nancy,
Yes, we do have a supply — we always keep enough to treat one serious mamba bite. If we have anything extra, it is used to assist other snakebite victims. Yes, we have been asked and have milked our mambas and other snakes for the production of antivenom. Hahaha… No, I have never thought of writing a book!

Lana asks:

Is it true that black mambas have been introduced to the Miami area (USA) by people who got them as pets and then released them in the wild? And if so…any idea if there is anti-venom anywhere in the State of Florida?

Thea says:

Lana,
The response to your question by Dr. Sean Bush: “Don’t know about ‘introduced,’ but we do get the occasional rogue mamba loose around southern California, Florida, etc. Antivenom can be located via the Antivenom Index, which is a joint database compiled by the American Association of Poison Control Centers and American Zoological Association.”

Peter E asks:

Do these snakes have any predators? And if you keep capturing them and throwing them back, isn’t the problem going to get worse?

Thea says:

Peter,
Yes, they do have many predators. One of the biggest threats to snakes in general is man. For every snake we rescue, hundreds get killed. Then there are birds, other snakes (some snakes just eat other snakes), etc. As the human population encroaches onto their territory, the interaction between snakes and humans increases, and we have to learn how to coexist with them. Many animals pose a threat, we cannot possibly eradicate every threat. The balance is extremely fragile — without snakes we will have an infestation of rodents, the rodents will kill all the insects, without insects… and so forth. The telemetry study taught us that the home range of mambas is surprisingly small. The areas selected to release the rescued snakes are far from humans, and they can exist there without posing any threat to human life.

Mike asks:

Thanks for the reply Thea! Just out of curousity what is the largest [length wise] black mamba you have ever seen or caught? I know that sites claim that they can reach 13 ft+ with the average adult black mamba being about 7.5-8.5 ft long but what is the largest black mamba that you have ever caught or seen?

Thea says:

Mike,
The largest mamba we have caught here in Swaziland was just shy of 10 ft, an impressive sight! The average size is about 8.2 – 9.1 ft. I have seen a picture of a 14 ft mamba that was caught in Natal, South Africa.

Jack Hilliard asks:

Hi Thea:
Thank you for the great work you are doing with the mambas and people of Swaziland. I love snakes and would love to help. Could a fund be set up to buy anti venom for snake bite victims? If one already exists, please let me know and my wife and I would like
to donate. Thanks again.

Thea says:

Jack,
Great to meet a fellow snake lover! We have established a trust. Please see www.antivenomswazi.org for more information.

Nick asks:

I read that you keep enough anti-venom for one mamba bite… does it go on call outs with you or require refrigeration?

Thea says:

Nick,
We keep 20 vials of polyvalent anti-venom and 2 vials of monovalent anti-venom, enough to treat a very serious mamba bite (or Boomslang bite – monovalent). Although we always have a first-aid kit in the vehicle, we do not always take anti-venom with us for call-outs that are relatively close. We do take it if we have to travel more than 2 hours or so. Anti-venom should preferably only be used in a hospital setting as it can cause severe and deadly side effects.

Cesar asks:

Thea
Why choose black mamba when there are plenty of other snakes in the area?

Thea says:

Cesar,
We do not only work with black mambas. In a season we rescue more than 500 snakes, of which 80 – 120 are black mambas. In Swaziland there are 83 species. The Mozambique spitting cobra is the most common and is also the snake responsible for most bites. The puff adder, rock python, boomslang, and snouted cobra are also very common. We rescue and relocate them all.

Rich says:

I live in an area with few venomous snakes-NY and we have other ways of dealing with rodents. I find it hard to believe these people need to die from snake bites to control the rodent population. The mamba population should be thinned out. There are [nonvenomous] snakes and other predators that can control the rodent population.

Thea says:

Rich,
When the film crew approached us to film what we do my biggest fear was that the black mamba would be demonised. All snakes bite defensively, very often when they are stepped on, and more often than not, when people try to kill them. It is important to note that we work with many different snakes. The black mamba is not Swaziland’s biggest problem, it is only responsible for about 10 percent of bites. The Mozambique spitting cobra, for instance, is responsible for 80 percent of bites and causes massive tissue destruction, and many people and children have to spend months receiving re-constructive surgery. Too many have limbs amputated.

We keep data on all the different species and use this information to monitor numbers, health and distribution of the different species. Nature seems to control the numbers naturally. Some years we find relatively few snakes in general, especially during years of drought.

Rich, I understand how you feel, but you need to realize that the documentary was filmed during a few short summer months, it does not show all the call-outs — only 4 out of about 500! The local people are afraid of snakes, but most are behind us 100 percent and are proud of their own contribution they play in the conservation of of all the reptile species.

Cliff Charlesworth asks:

I lived in Joh`burg for 10yrs. and visited Sudwala caves in the`80`s and stayed at the Royal Swazi Hotel. When I emerged from the caves into the strong sunlight I was temporarily blinded but heard a hiss on my left and when I focused I saw the head of a brown looking snake with a web neck about 4ft off of the ground and about 6ft. away and I stood stock still (I think with terror). It lowered to the ground and slid off at great speed. How close was I to being attacked please?
Cliff Charlesworth

Thea says:

Cliff,
I am not sure what snake this might have been. It must have been a cobra – either Mozambique spitting cobra or, more likely, a snouted cobra (previously know as the Egyptian cobra). A snouted cobra is extremely dangerous and has the same neurotoxic venom as the black mamba. The “hiss” was a warning to keep your distance – standing dead still is always the right thing to do as snakes will not bite if they do not feel threatened. If you had moved any closer or tried to hit it, there is a good chance that the snake would have bitten you (purely out of defense).  Snakes do not see very well at all and mainly follow movement. Even if a snake crawls over you, as long as you do not move, you will be fine. Once, during a call-out in a tiny room, a cobra crawled right up my leg!

 

Carly asks:

How fast is the black mamba. Were does it live, and [what] does it eat

Thea says:

Carly,
Mambas are not as fast as many people believe and can only move about 15-18 kilometers per hour [approximately 9-11 miles per hour]. You can easily outrun them. They live in most African countries. They eat all kinds of rodents and sometimes birds.

 

 
Jennifer B. asks:

Sorry to bombard you with questions after watching such a wonderful show, but I am ever curious. My first question is how exactly is the mamba anti venom made? Do they still increasing injection doses on horses to manufacture the anti venom or is some other animal more common in use. Secondly do they make the anti venom on hand in Swaziland or is it manufactured elsewhere and then shipped in. Secondly is the World Health organization doing anything to try to provide anti venom, or are they ignoring this problem? Since I know that anti venom requires refrigeration (or at least being kept cool) to maintain a decent shelf life, are there plans underway to build some kind of medical ‘waystations’ with solar refrigeration units? I really am impressed by this study and look forward to reading/seeing further results of your studies. Keep up the excellent work and best of wishes on both your studies and staying safe.

Thea says:

 
Jennifer,
Thank you for your interesting questions! Anti venom is still made by milking the venom from the snakes which is then injected into horses and sometimes pigs or sheep. The horses do not suffer at all. Some people are now injecting themselves with venom as well – the body builds up an immunity to the venom. This has to be done on a regular basis, often once a week, to be effective. [Do not attempt this.]
 
They do not make anti-venom in Swaziland. It gets produced in South Africa (the type we use anyway). Unfortunately we very often have to wait up to 3 months for stock!
 
WHO is not helping us at the moment. I have tried my best to get them involved but still no luck – but I am not giving up! Sooner or later they are going to get tired of my emails, calls and letters. :)
 
Most of the rural clinics already have power and refrigeration, unfortunately they do not have any anti-venom to put inside!!
 
Thank you for the compliments.


 
John asks:

Hello Thea, That has got to be one of the most scariest things to do. Do you ever have times when you are especially afraid. Here in North Carolina I have two resident black snakes in my shop. I enjoy seeing them though they are very shy and usually hide immediately. I have never handled them, I don’t think they would let me so I don’t try. I don’t know if they realize that I enjoy their company when I work in my shop. My wife and daughter will not come anywhere near the shop. I enjoyed the program it is good to learn something about these snakes. Thanks John.

Thea says:

John,
Do you know what species they are? It’s best not to disturb them if you want them to hang around, they will move off immediately if they feel their refuge has been compromised. Black mambas can, and do, often live undisturbed in the same place for up to 10 years. It is wonderful to know that you are happy to share your shop!  Why don’t you find out if someone offers ID and handling courses in your area? Then you can also start removing unwelcome guests?


 
Aarjan Snoek says:

Hi Thea, watched your show tonight, thanks was excellent! I used to live 10 km from the Swaziland Jeppe’s reef border, and used to get upset when snakes were killed, I suspect this still gets done a lot, in a year there i saw a boomslang (too close for comfort), Moz spitting cobra, and black mambas were breeding on our neighbour’s roof. Unfortunately the black mambas were killed, if i had known someone was willing/ brave enough to come remove them this would have been our first port of call, there are so many more snakes that are being killed daily that could be saved if more people could be trained to deal with them appropriately! I wish someone could do in South Africa what you guys are doing in Swaziland! Keep up the good work thank-you

Thea says:

Aarjan,
Unfortunately thousands of snakes are still being killed. Some people just do not understand that they actually provide us with a great service. If there is one snake you do not have to worry about, it is a boomslang. They very rarely bite even when handled – not that I’m saying they can or should be PLEASE! There are quite a few people that will remove snakes for free! Have a look at www.sareptiles.co.za for names and numbers in your area (if you are still in South Africa that is). In the case of a black mamba, please just make sure they know what they are doing. There is a specific technique, otherwise it can all go horribly wrong.

 

Patsy Moss says:

Hi Thea
No questions! Just to say what a fantastic job you are doing; such fascinating, misunderstood creatures. I’m full of admiration. I’ll be in Kruger in Jan and Feb – hope to see and learn more about mambas and other snakes. Keep up the good work. Thanks to you and your helpers also Clifton!! for joining in with you, really brave!! Especially as it wasn’t quite his thing!!

Thea says:

Patsy,
Thank you! You should see some snakes in the Kruger, especially if you drive very slowly at night on tar roads. It’s illegal to pick them up (even outside the park), so just appreciate them from a distance. If you decide to go on a night-drive, ask your guide to keep an eye as well.

Dee Royston asks:

 
A child was bitten in my garden in South Africa (property bordered on Parks Board) by a night adder. How does this compare with the bite of a black mamba? 2ndly we had a huge black mamba in the laundry it thrashed around knocking over coke bottles etc before it managed to find its way back out – I was terrified that it was going to attack my kids & dogs so I was running around like a looney trying to get them all inside. Following day, we had a boomslang hanging down from the avocado tree – the dogs were all barking at it. A snakes haven you could say.

Thea says: 

Dee,
The bite of a night adder is not all that serious but can be quite painful. The venom is cytotoxic, totally different to that of the neurotoxic mamba venom. The bite site will be painful and can become quite swollen, and there might be slight tissue damage. Anti-venom is not needed or effective as it is not part of the polyvalent cocktail.

I can just imagine the scene (LOL) with both snake and human running in separate directions! Please remember to remain calm and do not run – better yet, do not move – if you ever come into close contact with a snake. It’s a good idea to teach your children what to do in that kind of situation, it can save their lives. There are many people like myself who offer ID, first-aid and handling courses… sounds as if it might come in handy in your case!

Tim Hallam asks:

Hello Thea, excellant work! so you’ve got great herps in Swaziland And you run a hotel ummm! ever thought about organising herpetological field trips it would bring in much needed revenue to aid anti-venene distribution and aftercare
regards Tim Hallam.

Thea says:

Tim,
Thank you! We have and do sometimes organise field trips, but I do not always have the time… got to work to pay the bills! Many great herpetologists have come to visit from all over the world to collect DNA samples and just scratch around for interesting species — always love having them around.

Bridget asks:

Thea I watched your story on TV last night (in UK). May I just say that you are the most formidable woman I have witnessed in a very long time. I grew up in South Africa and my dad had to remove many snakes from our house in the KZN south coast. It was always a terrifying experience. I’ve always said “africa is not for sissies” and after watching your program last night I remembered why! Keep doing the good work you are doing. Have you tried approaching any NGO’s for funding or perhaps set yourself up as a charity? I wish you the best. Please stay safe.

Thea says:

Bridget,
Thank you very much, Bridget, for your kind words, and I have to agree with you 100 percent. Africa is most definitely not for sissies! If the snakes don’t get you, the ticks will — and if you escape them, the heat will!

We are discussing the problems we Swazis are facing with WHO and other organizations and hope to receive a positive response soon. Unfortunately summer is here and we are already faced with numerous bites and have no antivenom. If you would like to help, please visit: www.antivenomswazi.org.

SNAKEFAN asks:

Hey thea I just wanted to ask you a question. I recall hearing an account where during one of your field trips a black mamba was attacked by 4 dogs. The mamba then proceded to bite and kill all four dogs but died a week later from dog bite wounds. Is this story true? I have heard that you personally witnessed this incident, is this a true story? Do black mambas often kill dogs?

Thea says:

Snakefan,
Yes it is true, black mambas will kill a dog or several dogs if threatened and it happens quite often. We also find dead cows and horses! We were called by the frantic family late one evening. When we arrived minutes later, two small dogs had already died and two more were showing severe symptoms of envenomation. Within 15 minutes we had found and bagged the snake. By this time the other two dogs were also dead. The snake must have been moving through the garden when it was attacked by the dogs. It would have struck out defensively, biting all the dogs that came within reach. The snake was bitten in several places on its body as well and died about a week later.

Shawn asks:

Can a person survive from a Mamba bite if they are placed on a manual respirator? Or a hospital respirator? What about anti-venom and the above? Would you recommend keeping snake tongs around the home for safety measure? Thanks, Shawn

Thea says:

Shawn,
Most certainly. Without antivenom a ventilator will keep a person alive until the venom is worked out of the system which takes about 11 days. If a person is already on a ventilator and antivenom is administered, the patient will be able to be removed from the ventilator much sooner (actually within a day or so – it works incredibly fast).

I would only suggest that you keep snake tongs if you have been trained to remove or work with snakes. The course should include snake ID and basic first-aid.

  • Teresa

    Have you ever been bitten by a black mamba, or another particularly dangerous snake?

  • alona

    are black mambas deadle snakes?

  • Josh

    Are black mambas an endangered species?

  • Karen

    Is there a safe, non-toxic repellant that would discourage mambas and other venomous snakes from entering homes and areas inhabited by humans?

  • Sean Bush

    Keep doing what you are doing Thea: saving people from snakes and snakes from people.

  • Anne Vogelbruck

    Being from Swaziland and knowing the Lubombo area where you do most of your work, I know how remote it is, how bad the roads are and how few hospitals and clinics there are. Do you receive any financial or moral support from parastatals or governments, or do you have to find funds yourself to keep this programme going?

  • Heather

    How does the Black Mamba compare overall to the Australian Tai-Pan?

  • Debra and Mike

    We will be doing mission work in South Ethopia and Central Kenya in June and July. What do you advise us to do in order to be as safe as possible from unwelcomed snakes?

  • Heather Johnstone

    Regarding snake bite care, have you explored homeopathic remedies? These can be low cost and very effective for this type of issue. The snake bite homeopathic remedies can be made from the tiniest bit of venom.

  • Bryn Evans (via his mom, Aimee)

    Bryn would like to know how pervasive Black Mambas are in Africa: Just in Swaziland or all over? What other deadly snakes are a “problem” in Swaziland?

  • Graham

    The program said you implanted 4 snakes but only three were mentioned later – did one die, and if so, was it recovered and the cause of death determined? Have you implanted any others subsequently?

  • Helen Ayiteyfio

    What part of Swaziland are these black mambas the most comon. I was watching your show on PBS here in Atlanta, Georgia and I am originally from Swaziland in Nhlangano.
    Thanks

  • Joseph Bonney

    Hi, my name is Joseph Bonney I live in the U.S. I would like to learn more about you and helping with your cause.

  • Brandy

    Dear Thea,
    What has been your biggest obstacle to overcome with educating people in Swaziland? I do domesticated snake education (no deadly snakes for me!) but am often astonished by the fears and prejudices I have to overcome with my perfectly safe, nonvenomous pets.

  • Tom Columbus

    Thea would you be interested to start a thorough black mamba availability antivenom program in Swaziland?

  • Delores McElroy

    How expensive is anti-venom? How can a fund be started to assist in this matter?

  • Phil Gent

    The young girl who lost her life to a mamba bite, if she had boots would that have saved her life? how do you donate items or money for anti-venom for those poor individuals in Swaziland?

  • Tanya

    How hard is it to catch a Black Mamba?

  • chris johnson

    I was so glad I caught the show because that had to of been the greatest show highlighting the black mamba continue the great work and the only question I have is are you still tracking the mambas and if you are could you email progress you have made and also if that was Sean Bush the venom 911 physician I would like to say im a hugh fan of yours

  • Tanya

    How many minutes do you live when you get bitten by a Black Mamba?

  • Spencer Ward

    Thea I saw your show on PBS and noticed that you used snake tongs from Midwest but what brand of tong was Clifton using…..they didn’t look familiar at all. Thanks Spencer

  • Kevin Plitt

    Thea Can I come Work at you snake park and help catch and educate people about snakes its my destiny!!!???
    PLESAE
    Kevin

  • Patricia Haythorne

    Oh, it does my heart good to see how you are doing with the black mamba. I just think you are a very wonderful person, to be spending your time in the pursuit of saving animals and saving people. The U.S. is a violent, kill, kill country, so I am really really happy to see you on PBS. THANK YOU, THANK YOU. wORDS JUST CANNOT EXPRESS HOW APPRECIATIVE i AM, FOR YOU AND FOR YOUR HUSBAND.

  • Izzie

    Such an amazing story! I was quite riveted the entire program. However, no mention was made of the green mamba. What can you tell me about that reptile? Does it also live in Swaziland and prove as terrifying as the balck mamba?

  • Patrick Byron

    Thea,
    What is the name of the medical research site that was established in your country to aid bite victims and mamba study?
    I was enthralled with the program…mesmerized might be a better word! You and your hubby are gutsy, empathetic and awesome for what you are doing! BE SAFE!!

  • Virginia

    Excellent fascinating show! What did happen to Twiggy?

  • Christine Brownfield

    I found your program to be really fascinating and the work you are doing will benefit not only people but the Black Mamba itself. What I really loved was the fact the you have a pet orphaned baby warthog!!! How adorible! I fell in love with warthogs when I travelled in Namibia in 2007 (fortunately the safaris were in May not during snake season!!) it is a shame that the government of Swaziland does not make more effort to provide treatment and antimvenom for its people, considering those rather impressive sugar cane plantations, seems like there is money floating around.

  • John

    Thea, great program. Good to see Swaziland after many years. Where exactly do you live? You cannot cover the whole country, small as SD is – how far do you go on rescue mussions? Where is the game park you mention? I taught at schools near Nhlangano, in Manzini and Ezulwini many years ago with the Peace Corps.

  • Joe

    Is it possible to set bait traps for mambas, or is active trapping currently the only way to catch them?

  • Susan Whitney

    Hello :)

    Bless your heart for all your work and research. At this moment, my husband and I are watching your captivating show on PBS. I’m writing to you from Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.
    Stay safe! :)
    Susan

  • Lana

    Is it true that black mambas have been introduced to the Miami area (USA) by people who got them as pets and then released them in the wild? And if so…any idea if there is anti-venom anywhere in the State of Florida?

  • Kerri Muir

    Hi Thea,

    When watching this program and seeing how many people are maimed or killed by these snakes, I just thought “Why couldn’t each village have at least one shot of the anti-venom?” How costly is this venom? Wouldn’t there be a way to get people (Americans) involved in an effort to raise funds to provide each village with a sort of “Emergency Call Box” with an anti-venom shot in it – located centrally in the village? If they would at least have that chance, then they might buy some time to make it to a hospital or medical facility.

  • Nancy

    Do you at least have anti-venom for yourself? Have you ever been asked to milk the black mamba for its venom to help produce anti-venom? Have you ever considered writing a book about your snake job? Thank you for the courage to help others.

  • Scott Hopkins

    Hello,
    I would love to come and work for you. Is that a possibility? Please let me know.

    Thank you…Scott Hopkins

  • peter e

    do these snakes have any predators? and if you keep capturing them and throwing them back, isn’t the problem going to get worse?

  • MIke

    Thanks for the reply thea! Just out of curousity what is the largest[ length wise] black mamba you have ever seen or caught? I know that sites claim that they can reach 13 ft+ with the average adult black mamba being about 7.5-8.5 ft long but what is the largest black mamba that you have ever caught or seen?

  • Jack Hilliard

    Hi Thea:
    Thank you for the great work you are doing with the mambas and people of Swaziland. I love snakes and would love to help. Could a fund be set up to buy antivenom for snake bite victims?
    If one already exists, please let me know and my wife and I would like to donate. Thanks again.

    Jack Hilliard
    Fort Worth, Texas, USA

  • Nick

    Hello,
    I read that you keep enough anti-venom for one mamba bite… does it go on call outs with you or require refrigeration?

  • Cynthia

    I have a question…how many minutes do you have left to live when you have been bitten by a Black Mamba????????

  • Cesar

    Thea

    Why choose black mamba when there are plenty of other snakes in the area?

  • karen

    Wow! I just saw your OPB show! My son also had a snake thing going when he was young. Mom, Mom! Do you know how a reticulated python kills it’s prey? This from a 5year old. I love snakes but live in Oregon and we have garder and a ring neck coral that has found his way up from Calif. You Rock! I was rivited by your show! Keep up the good work1

  • Rich

    I live in an area with few venomous snakes-NY and we have other ways of dealing with rodents. I find it hard to believe these people need to die from snake bites to control the rodent population. The mamba population should be thinned out. There are nonvenous snakes and other predators that can control the rodent population.

  • Cliff Charlesworth

    I lived in Joh`burg for 10yrs. and visited Sudwala caves in the`80`s and stayed at the Royal Swazi Hotel.When I emerged from the caves into the strong sunlight I was temporarily blinded but heard a hiss on my left and when I focused I saw the head of a brown looking snake with a web neck about 4ft off of the ground and about 6ft. away and I stood stock still (I think with terror).
    It lowered to the ground and slid off at great speed . How close was I to being attacked please?
    Cliff Charlesworth

  • carly

    How fast is the black mamba. Were does it live ,and wat does it eat

  • Jennifer B.

    Sorry to bombard you with questions after watching such a wonderful show, but I am ever curious. My first question is how exactly is the mamba anti venom made? Do they still increasing injection doses on horses to manufacture the anti venom or is some other animal more common in use. Secondly do they make the anti venom on hand in Swaziland or is it manufactured elsewhere and then shipped in.

    Secondly is the World Health organization doing anything to try to provide anti venom, or are they ignoring this problem?

    Since I know that anti venom requires refrigeration (or at least being kept cool) to maintain a decent shelf life, are there plans underway to build some kind of medical ‘waystations’ with solar refrigeration units?

    I really am impressed by this study and look forward to reading/seeing further results of your studies.

    Keep up the excellent work and best of wishes on both your studies and staying safe.

  • John

    Hello Thea, That has got to be one of the most scariest things to do. Do you ever have times when you are especially afraid.Here in North carolina I have two resident black snakes in my shop.I enjoy seeing them though they are very shy and usually hide immediately.I have never handled them,I don’t think they would let me so I don’t try. I don’t know if they realize that I enjoy their company when I work in my shop. My wife and daughter will not come anywhere near the shop. I enjoyed the program it is good to learn something about these snakes. Thanks John.

  • raegan perterson

    HI, WATCHED YOUR PROGRAM THIS EVENING ON BBC2….VERY INTERESTING..LOVE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT IT….KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK…
    RAE

  • Aarjan Snoek

    Hi Thea, watched your BBC show tonight, thanks was excellent!
    I used to live 10 km from the Swaziland Jeppe’s reef border, and used to get upset when snakes were killed, I suspect this still gets done a lot, in a year there i saw a boomslang (too close for comfort), Moz spitting cobra, and black mambas were breeding on our neighbour’s roof. Unfortunately the black mambas were killed, if i had known someone was willing/ brave enough to come remove them this would have been our first port of call, there are so many more snakes that are being killed daily that could be saved if more people could be trained to deal with them appropriately! I wish someone could do in South Africa what you guys are doing in Swaziland! Keep up the good work thank-you

  • Peter Moverley

    Hi Thea, I’ve just watched your fascinating and inspiring program on BBC2 tonight and I was touched and impressed by your bravery and commitment to protecting these beautiful but deadly creatures. I lived and worked in South Africa for 14 short months and just loved the country, the people, the land. Your program made me miss the continent again and I hope to get back soon. Again, kudos to you and your team!

  • Patsy Moss

    Hi Thea
    No questions! Just to say what a fantastic job you are doing; such fascinating, misunderstood creatures. I’m full of admiration. I’ll be in Kruger in Jan and Feb – hope to see and learn more about mambas and other snakes. Keep up the good work. Thanks to you and your helpers also Clifton!! for joining in with you, really brave!! Especially as it wasn’t quite his thing!!

  • Dee Royston

    A child was bitten in my garden in South Africa (property bordered on Parks Board) by a night adder. How does this compare with the bite of a black mamba? 2ndly we had a huge black mamba in the laundry it thrashed around knocking over coke bottles etc before it managed to find its way back out – I was terrified that it was going to attack my kids & dogs so I was running around like a looney trying to get them all inside. Following day, we had a boomslang hanging down from the avocado tree – the dogs were all barking at it. A snakes haven you could say.

  • Tim Hallam

    Hello Thea, excellant work!
    so you’ve got great herps in Swaziland And you run a hotel ummm! ever thought about organising herpetological field trips it would bring in much needed revenue to aid anti-venene distribution and aftercare
    regards Tim Hallam.

  • Ben

    Saw the documentary last night and am amazed at your courage. A few weeks ago I also saw a documentary on Asian Cobra’s and there was a remarkable root plant I think called Snake Root which has proven and tested medical properties as an antidote and preventative for cobra bite. I wondered if a) the root could be tested to see if it could work with mamba envenomations, and b) if it did whether the local medicine men could cultivate it in zwasiland. I can’t remember the name of the documentary but it was on sky3.

    Please look after yourself and dont take any risks.

  • torben platt

    Thea, my wife (Dr. Jenni Doll D.V.M.)and I would very much like to travel to Swaziland and work with you on a volunteer basis (temporarily). We are both experienced with venemous snakes with regards to husbandry, transmitter insertion, catching, handling, etc….Is this a possibility?

  • ben

    Think this is a link to the details of the root that can combat cobra venom (see below). The effects were tested in a scientific manner which showed that it can almost completely stop the spread of the neurotoxic effects of the cobra venom. To make a solution from the root is very low cost and it used in villages and especially by Tai snake farm performers. The root is grown locally.

    http://www.plantsystematics.com/qikan/manage/wenzhang/aps07003.pdf

  • Burak

    Hi Thea,
    İ have found this website while searching about African deadlist snakes. i will have touristic trip to Mozambique and South Africa next week ,i hope i do not face like these snakes. i love snakes if they do not touch me:) i want to congratulate you as you help swaziland ppl and these magnificant animals as volunteer. Burak from TURKIYE

  • Heather Johnstone

    Nosodes are made from only the one potentized substance. In this case, it would be the venom diluted to a certain potency. I highlight this option, as my clients bitten by poisonous spiders have had tremendous results and the use of the associated spider’s nosode. Once made, the snake nosode remedies would last a long time, be portable,easy to administer and inexpensive. I just bring it up as an option to consider, since the antidote is not readily available in your community.Thank you.

  • Bridget

    Thea I watched your story on TV last night (in UK). May I just say that you are the most formidable woman I have witnessed in a very long time. I grew up in South Africa and my dad had to remove many snakes from our house in the KZN south coast. It was always a terrifying experience. I’ve always said “africa is not for sissies” and after watching your program last night I remembered why! Keep doing the good work you are doing. Have you tried approaching any NGO’s for funding or perhaps set yourself up as a charity? I wish you the best. Please stay safe.

  • SNAKEFAN

    Hey thea I just wanted to ask you a question. I recall hearing an account where during one of your field trips a black mamba was attacked by 4 dogs. The mamba then proceded to bite and kill all four dogs but died a week later from dog bite wounds. Is this story true? I have heard that you personally witnessed this incident, is this a true story? Do black mambas often kill dogs?

  • Kate

    Hi Thea

    I currently at university studying an animal behaviour and wildlife conservation degree and have started to think about possible topics to do my dissertation around. I love snakes, the Black Mamba being my favourite, however living in England we only get adders so I was going to focus my project around these. I saw you and Clifton on Natural World recently and am just in awe of your work and wanted to ask if you would ever consider letting my stay with you to do my finals project around the Black Mamba. I wanted to track the adders here but its not possible with licening laws, I would need a vet to insert the chips, I would have to purchase the chips and telemetry etc etc so its not really possible. Its a terrible shame as tracking the movements and range of the snakes is what I really wanted to study. However you guys already have this all set up and with my favourite snake of all time. I could help to gather useful data that you can use as research for your project. I would pay all my own costs etc and I have lived in Africa before, I spent almost 4 months in South Africa working on conservation programmes.

    Thanks for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

    Kate

  • Shawn

    Can a person survive from a Mamba bite if they are placed on a manual respirator? Or a hospital respirator? What about anti-venom and the above? Would you recommend keeping snake tongs around the home for safety measure? Thanks, Shawn

  • ben

    Hi Thea,

    The SKY 3 documentary about the magic root that can combat cobra venom was called Inside King Cobra. In the documentary a Dr Latmer from the WHO in Bangkog showed how a magic root was able to combat the neurotoxic effects of venom from a huge King Cobra. The root is grown locally by Thai farmers and is a fraction of the cost of Anti-venom (and with no side effects). It must be taken soon after a bite or drank on a regular basis. The root can also be grown anywhere in the tropics so potentially it may grow in Swaziland along with other crops. I was very moved by the death of the girl in your documentary and snakebite threat that is faced on an annual basis by the swazi people. I am not a scientist but should you wish me to do any further work ie; obtaining further details please let me know.

    Very Best Regards
    Ben

  • Dr M A Peirce

    Hi Thea,
    I am a wildlife parasitologist specialising in blood parasites of birds, mammals and reptiles. On a recent trip to the Kruger I was given a raft of blood smears from several black mambas, some of which have Hepatozoon parasites. There is only one previous record for this in mambas (from Tanzania). However, recent molecular studies on snake haematozoa seem to indicate that such parasites may not always be host-specific. Therefore to take this study further I really need some histopatholgy material to find tissue stages (schizonts) in order to possibly describe the mamba parasite as a new species. If you know of anyone who may be able to provide such material I would be most grateful. Somebody may already have observed such stages in mamba tissues without realising what they were.

    Kind regards,

    Mike Peirce

  • samuel stokes

    well not too long ago i found a black momba in paso right in my back yard what do i do and its still here as i speak

  • Marilyn Wyss

    I grew up near the Kruger Nat. Park, very much mamba country. We heard many stories about mated mamba’s traveling in pairs. Kill one and the mate could be a threat. Any scientic evedence of this behavior?

  • Thea Litschka

    I can no longer answer questions on this site. If you would like to contact me please use:swazilady@gmail.com

  • Darryl Staves

    i would like to come and work with you do you need any help?

  • Natalie Williams

    Hi Thea and Clifton

    Just watched your episode on Natural World. What a wonderful programme, I felt a lovely warm feeling when it finished (I didn’t want it to finish! Could have watched another few hours, marvellous. All credit to you both and your team. Delighted to see how you are educating the lovely people in Swaziland, what a wonderful place to live too!

    I was thoroughly enthralled by your work and efforts, truly amazing. I adore snakes, having had the opportunity of handling a python, and introducing my daughter at around the age of 5 to snakes at our local safari park in the West Midlands, England. She was rather brave and stroked the snake, not sure she would do it now!

    Keep up the good work and stay safe!

    Natalie

  • Andrew Edwards

    Wow Thea,
    Your are an AMAZING Lady! I just happened to catch your Documentary “Black Mamba”! Black Mambas are my absolute favorite from the animal kingdom. I thought I would just see more of the same but found you instantly sucking me into Swaziland. I’m a documentary fanatic and I have to say yours was pure magic! A great example of what can happen when you follow your heart. Your impact on your fellow countrymen and women … Is immeasurable. You are a gift to humanity … THANKS for sharing and most importantly PLEASE continue to give it.

    Andrew

    ps. I not even going to into amazing some of those (most of ) oh what the heck ALL of the shots! ESPECIALLY the ending one with the Mamba in the foregroung in a tree and the Giraffe gliding by in the background … magical!

  • Bryher Kluifstra

    Wonderful programme on 7th February re the mambas in Swaziland – you made me so homesick for Africa and wanted to take the first plane back! The photography was brilliant and congratulations to you both for being such caring people.
    Have 2 questions please:
    1. Why does your husband especially not wear long trousers and protective clothing when looking for the mambas as it would be the first thing I would do!
    2. At the end of the programme it was accouned that the king has donated land for a snake park and a veonom antidote clinic – am so pleased to hear about this as it is shocking how many people die from snake bites. Do you have a bank account we can make donations into for this clinic please.

  • Isabel

    Thea,
    Are there any studies about the balance of the ecosystem in Swaziland? It is alarming that these animals are causing so many deaths and maimings in the human population. If the black mamba or the spitting cobra are not endangered species it seems incredible that more is not done to reduce the snake and rodent population within a certain radius of human habitation. Maybe the resources are not there to do this but, shouldn’t that be the aim–along with education– if so many human lives are at stake? Wouldn’t having antivenom available at certain clinics be just a band-aid on the problem (not that it should not be done) if in fact people could not afford the treatment or make it to a clinic in time? I’m not a snake killer, by the way, and I’m aware I am throwing out a question about a country I know very little about.
    I do commend you and your husband for your work and willingness to educate the public. Thank you so much!

  • Nick Hentsch

    Fantastic program thoroughly enjoyed it. As a snake owner I’d be very interested in working with you & your cause.

  • Jacek

    I’m from poland country where do we not have dangerous snake , although we have a cold climate which is a big problem for me , (I hate cold weather ), but on the other hand we do not have to cope with these all kind of snakes I would do everything to reduce number of black mambas and other snake from dense populated area using all method available – just killing them, I do not understand , if someone is talking the snakes are imortant part of our world and people shoud die to let snake live – please do not write that I do not understand the problem

  • lizy

    what is 3 things or situations that could reduce the population of the black mamba??

  • ronald duijndam

    hello thea – i live in kenya at an altitude of 2200 meters /half an hour from nairoby. we just had to kill a small very black snake in the house. i normally love all wild life but in the house we got freaked out. i have been trying to find out what type it was. i have made pictures from it but am unable to find any matching type. do you have any suggestions and could there be more than one (maybe bigger parents) we have the feeling this one was very young length 20 to 25 cm, thin black with small head. i hope you can help us

  • Songre Osmenep

    now can u say how much interest that has been placed to your cause since u went Global remember I did tell u this once people found out what u were doing the world over you would be revered by all and sundry because u are the most important woman on planet Earth right now. Clifton u also have the most amazing wife on Earth I have ever seen. I did tell u that CNN Hero should be part of your accolades, some Global gift or recognition similar to Nobel Peace Prize, a member of the British Empire and many more. Thea u deserve them all and I am going to say here prophetically we want u to establish a Global account that any one of us the world over can Donate money to your cause and to help the people of Swaziland. So please guys the world over let us give Thea the Global recognition she deserves and that way eventually a snake zoo and an antivenom clinic build for the people of Swaziland and tourists coming to visit you. What a sight in a few years to come that would be? extraordinary. Thea I am so afraid of snakes in the Caribbean its just the Boa Constrictors non venomous I believe but 90+% of us are scared of them. A world tour would be really nice for you and Clifton you would not believe the gifts and Donation u would receive from all of us all over! All the best to you my friend and family and may God continue to bless the wonderful people of Swaziland. Lastly to all those rich folks like Donald Trump and the richest man in Africa please donate 1 (one) million dollars to Thea’s Organization to start the building of the Antivenom factory and the Zoo without delay. Personally if I meet Mr. Trump or Bill Gates and ask them they would not turn me down and would agree almost instantly after I have laid the facts before them I know them! Good luck Thea you are my Hero my CNN Hero for 2010. Cheers.

  • diana jones

    Dear Thea,
    Just an idea. Could a whistle be created that when blown will make the black mamba move away? Would it be worth trying with ordinary whistle on the snakes that you have in captivity? If they don’t react to it then with a little research a sound could be found that is unpleasant to them, and made into a cheap whistle that everyone could aford especially sugarcane workers, children playing in the garden etc. Just think how many lives you could save, and at the same time make a little industry for the local people. Also no harm to the snakes.
    Sincere regards.D

  • carson brooks

    Thank you so much for the work you are doing. I know you have heard that a million times but what you are doing now will set the pace for a whole new way people look at venomous species. In the future. Our group in texas deals mostly with rattle snakes and copperheads etc and that is taxing enough, I couldn’t imagine dealing with black mambas on a regular basis. So from all of us here in Texas, thank you.

  • Sandra Lane

    Hello, and thank you for helping Black Mambas. What is the size of their territory? Do Green Mambas also have territory on the ground? Thanks.

  • jon

    What animals do black mambas live with?

  • Colin

    Do Boomslangs have any predators?

  • sharon

    today a green snake was killed outside my sister’s home (kenya – nairobi area). it was on the ground eating a chameleon. when it was hit, it disgorged the chameleon. my question – mamba? grass snake? i didn’t see it. supposedly 2-3 or so feet long. danger of possible poison to the area? should precautions be taken? guess a group of people stood around and watched the snake eat for quite some time and the chameleon was still kicking while being eaten but died after thrown up

  • alona

    do black mambas live only in africa?

  • Sam

    There’s a group going to Rwanda to see the Gorillias (around December/January) and I was wondering if you knew of any good literature about snakes located there? I would like to be able to identify any snakes that may be seen, and know what to do/expect in the case of a bite. Also, in the U.S. we have “snake-bite-proof” boots and I was wondering if you thought they would work on Africian snakes since they were tested on Timber Rattle snakes or copperheads, or is there a difference in the fangs that would affect it? Should I even bother to buy them?

  • Joseph Zulu

    Hi there Thea and Clifton…I was impressed that the emergency center, 999 actually referred that i call u instead and i can honestly say your response was very quick. After watching you remove two snakes from my house today i truly understand how dedicated you are with your work. There must be a way we can get funding for your work because you are definitely saving many lives. After meeting you today, I am less afraid of snakes. Considering the number of snakes in the country and particularly in the region you are based, have you ever tried to educate school children about how to protect themselves from snakes? Oh if you are not getting any funding from government,at least they should allow you to have a siren and fitted to your vehicle and some emergency lights.

  • Linda Elder

    I am very moved by your dedication, passion for mambas, and compassion for the people of Swaziland. I have not yet translated my passion for animals the way that you have. Can you impart some wisdom and courage, that I might still do that, at my 51 years of age, here in Southwestern Ontario, Canada?

  • Natalie Johnson

    Amazing video. I have two questions.
    1) Why do black mambas keep their eyes open while they sleep?
    2)Shouldn’t there be some type of medicine to cure snake bites such as the black mamba’s given to the local healers just in case there is a snake bite in the village?

  • yaquta

    do you think a black mamba is of ecological importance ?

  • Rob Gibson
  • Jim

    Why release these snakes back into the wild knowing they will kill?

    I don’t get it.

  • Concerned Mom

    How can a person in Swaziland contact you if they happen to have a Black Mamba in their dwelling? Do you have a telephone number, or do authorities call you if you are needed?

  • Concerned Mom

    Sorry, just read other comments. Call 999 to get help in Swaziland? Thanks

  • Donna Ivey

    I volunteer in a clinic in Malawi, Africa. We see black mambas on the campus (they are usually killed), but we have no antivenom. I have done research while there and apparently there is no antivenom in the entire city! If you simply do supportive care, including intubation (where you breathe through a machine) for a victim, will they survive? If you don’t know the answer, can you direct me to some other source that would know? I loved the show. I live full time in Texas, where I routinely have poisonous snakes on my property and treat bites in the local emergency department, but (except for small children) they are not fatal. Thanks for your work with these fascinating creatures in Africa.

  • Ruby

    Hi :)

    I just wanted to let you know, that I admire your bravery and commitment towards protecting snakes and people in Swaziland. I am from Australia and am 14 years old, so I didn’t know much about snakes, especially the Black Mamba. Watching the video of you was very eye opening and fascinating, and I plan to learn more about snakes now, especially ones that are native to Australia. I just thought it was important to let you know that your message of being aware and protecting wildlife is reaching and affecting many. I know this probably sounds stupid but watching what you and your husband do for your community really inspired me, and I hope in the future I will be doing something that will benefit animals and people, and educate them about things that are really matter but are often overlooked too. I hope this message reaches you.

    Ruby.

  • jacek

    what would you say if black mambas were on your property , is easy to say about mambas protection if you live in country where dangerous snake are not available . let we speak peaople who are affected by black mambas

  • sarah

    I just wonder how many snakes you have “rescued” and “released” only to later have them kill an innocent person. Maybe we should start “rescuing” and “releasing” landmines in Mozambique. Or maybe release some of the people in jail who have murdered people.

  • nirvana

    i found a black mamba in my yard 3days ago eating a rog,it was near by bedroom windOw in my backyard and near a drain.the local security company killed it though.how do i know i there are no more snakes around as i have 2young kids.also i have a concrete shed in yard with retaining wall.previou owner spotted snakes on 3occasions when he lIved here.how can i prevent snakes in my yard.i live in verulam,kwazulu natal,south africa where several mambas have been daily spotted.please help.

  • jacek

    Read this articel

    Snakebites are described in several studies as a neglected health threat that claims thousands of lives every year, especially in rural parts of South Asia, South America and Sub-Saharan Africa. More than 5 million people are bitten by snakes annually, and 2.5 million get venom in their system.

    In India alone, around 11,000 people die and 84,000 are poisoned by snakes every year. These deaths could be prevented if antivenom is used quickly.

    Twenty years ago, Felipa Angeles, an inhabitant of Caraz in the highlands of Peru, said that people would rush on horseback to small clinics in the countryside that had antivenom in stock.

    “Now some have cars but the poison spreads so fast that by the time they get to hospital, their arm or leg needs to be amputated,” she said.

    In Africa alone there are an estimated 1 million snake bites annually with about half those bitten needing treatment. WHO says the actual number of bites is likely to be much higher because available figures are based on hospital statistics, while most victims don’t make it to the hospital.

    “The scale of human suffering remains unknown,” said Ann Padilla, a WHO scientist. “This problem continues to be neglected by many countries.”

    There is no doctor to cure snake bites in the Bhluahi village of Bihar, India. The first thing villagers do is to tightly tie a rope around the area that is bitten to stop the poison from flowing and then make a small incision to drain the venom.

    “Some people keep medicines but they are usually hard to find and expensive to buy,” said Santosh Kumar, a villager.

  • Gordon

    What a fantastic story and video., wonderful work Thea. As the son of a sugar farmer, I have some of my own mamba memories… and some stained undies.

    The stand out feature for me is that lack of services. You have done well to hold back on critising the King of Swaziland, an evil little despot who escapes all attention because swaziland is so small. This is a man who rides around in a fleet of Maybachs, has private jets and palaces and 14 wives. For a man worth more than $100 million it is a disgrace that his country does even have a life support ward.

  • Hunter

    Thea-
    I read that if a mamba is born captive it will not bite the owner. Is this true?

  • Orville

    Hi Thea
    I loved your program on the Black Mamba. I’m in the US and live in Lexington, Kentucky.
    I was wondering what are some good areas to stay in if someone visits your part of the area and what time of the year is the best time to visit?
    Thanks,
    Orville

  • Russell

    Hi Thea

    We lost our Bull Mastiff last night to a snake, either mamba or Moz spiting Cobra. Only saw her dead by the back door this morning. Lots of froth expelled from the mouth, faeces not diarheao and blood from the rectum. Whch of these do you think it couldve been. We are on a farm near to a river in the lowveld area of Komatipoort,
    Thanks Russell

  • Grace

    Hi Thea:

    There is a black mamba living in the roof of my parents’ house. My parents live in the Lowveld area. This snake uses the crevice adjoining the roof and wall of the house to enter and exit our roof. There is also a very large tree right next to the main entrance of our house with many birds and from reading your publication, that could be the reason why this snake chose our house as its dwelling.

    This crevice is situated above our door entrance, therefore my parents see this snake on daily basis. Although the snake and my parents live peacefully, we (the children) feel more comfortable if this snake is relocated.

    Do you know of any experienced snake handler in the Lowveld area that may assist us with the capturing and relocation of this snake? It is otherwise a lovely snake with a shy character.

    Many thanks,

    Grace

    Thanks

  • Shreya

    Is there any Black mambas in USA or in India? If there are any black Mambas in USA than in what state?

    – Thank you

  • Hannahkate

    Hi. I am in 6th grade an doing a project on mambas. It was scary watching you catch mambas and I was very glad you did not get bitten.. I was wondering if you catch the other poisonous snakes the way you catch mambas? If you are trying to catch a spitting cobra or snouted cobra do you approach them the same way you do a mamba or do you have to be aware of differences in how they attack? Also I read that drug companies are making less antivenom even though more antivenom is needed because they do not make enough money selling antivenom to countries like Swaziland. Is that true? Thank you.

  • joselyne Hernandez

    HI I’m a student at Chestnut Ridge Middle School I’m doing an I-search for my English teacher about the black mamba and I wanted to know who discovered the black mamba??? Have to have an interview with a person that really knows about the black mamba and I was thinking if you can be my interveners. Another question I had was that is the black mamba can swim and if yes how?????? i really want to know if u can help me out and if yes you can write me back at joselynehernandez4268@gmail.com thank you for your help

  • Virgil Johnson

    Are you familiar with a venomous snake called the Fer-De-Lance

  • William Hugo

    Hi there

    Can you direct me to your place or adress.I just want to come say hi and have a look where you stay in Swaziland.I’m going through Swaziland to Ballito in beginning of May.Maybe have an idea where you work and what you are doing there.

    Thanks

    William

  • Thomas

    How does a mamba move?

  • Branislav

    Hi Thea,

    I was impressed by your work. You do great job. Do you milk evey snake you catch? Having in mind the antivenom problem, I guess you do that.

  • alyssa

    Thea,
    i watched the 50 minute video of you during school rescueing, and watching over many black mambas. inserting transmitters and tracking devices. how your son got you interested. I have a one question in particular to your eldest son. which i hope he can answer. Why did you choose snakes in particular for your project? please answer back im interested.!

  • Louis Lombard

    Hi Thea

    I am a HO Officer for EZEMVELO KZN Wildlife in Paulpietresburg. We do get call-outs to remove snakes in houses ect. Were will the best release areas be for this snakes, the area around town is heavely populated. is there any legal guidens on areas for the release of snakes?

  • arunangshu sharma

    what is the colour of the poision ?

  • Adrian

    Can you find black mambas in Asia

  • sierra

    What do you do if u come across a black maba

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  • electricbluebird

    Does your husband ever wish you had taken up knitting? Fascinating show!

  • Alex

    First of all I think it is amazing and courageous of you to not only help so many people and try to educate them on the snakes…but putting your life in risk. I also thought that it was smart that in the show you highlighted the fact that Africa’s booming population is expanding to put new housing up and make former woodlands/forests agriculture areas…these snakes do not recognize…human land from normal land..so it is imperative that a solution is created to DECREASE the amount of people being killed in Africa/ around the world from snake bites. I can’t believe 20,000 people in Africa alone!!!! That is so sad…especially when the mother cried at her daughters dirt grave….all because of one little snake bite :(. HERE IS MY QUESTION….I was wondering why don’t humans try to control the snake population so there arent so many around. I know there are also alot of rodents in africa…but I rather have rodents then snakes. thanks again for your hard work there!

  • Terry Moore

    Hi Thea.

    I loved the program. My Question is how can I help. 35 years working with wildlife from all over the World. Snakes, Big Cats, Elephants, Bears, ect.

    Currently conducting wildlife programs in the U.S. Utah. Rattlesnakes are a favorite. Can I volunteer to assist in your efforts to educate in Swaziland?
    I published a book last year titled Circles in the Sand. Living and Working with Wild Animals.

    Please respond when you are able. Can come to Africa and help if you would like. Terry Moore

  • sharon

    Your like the soccer mom of snake handlers. Its incredible.

  • Saffrone

    Having grown up in Johannesburg, South Africa and now living near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, we happened upon your show tonight. It was amazing to see your work and really delightful to see how loving you are to your sweet husband. Thank you for being such a wonderful example of a fantastic human being. You are a blessing to so many. We will continue to watch the show and share the details with our friends, in hopes that they will also join us in watching your journey.

  • asianguyensingle

    Hello, i just saw your page on Google, and I already bought these on http://www.buy-snake-wine.com but i wonder where to find other snake related products, any idea ?
    Thanks for your help.

  • Harsha

    Hello! Just saw the show and was thoroughly impressed! What an amazing job you guys are doing!! I live in India and commonly encounter cobras, and Russels Vipers around the area that I live in. My question to you is about snake tongs used for removal of the snakes- would you suggest shorter tongs (which requires closer proximity to the snake, but better control) or longer tongs (which gives you more distance, but is harder to control)? Thank you so much! Keep up the great work!

  • D McDaniel

    Gooday, Thank our Lord for making persons, like you &, hubby. I found you on the computer, I live in Ohio, what channel &, time am I priviliged to watch your show with my family, &, neighbors. I say Prayers for Africa, &, all of you all, to stay safe, &, healthy, BLESSINGS.

  • vikash

    Please may i know how fast can a black mamba swim??
    or how fast are they in water??

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  • Keith Chittim

    Hello,

    Are the black mambas in Tanzania where I live different in any way from those in Swaziland? The reason I ask is that I came across what I think might be a black mamba near my home yesterday but it does not have a black mouth but does look like a mamba. I’d love to hear from you.
    By the way I did take a couple of pictures of it.

  • jaquas

    how do they survive?

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  • reggie

    what do black mambas eat

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  • Cathy Rattray

    Dear Thea, we live in Gingindlovu, Zululand and have a 2,83m black mamba male living near our house which is situated on our sugar cane farm. We lost our beautiful great dane about 3 weeks ago from a snake bite, and suspect that it was the black mamba that bit her as it has been spotted several times around the property and we found the skin it shed in one of our flower beds 2 weeks after she was bitten. We are very keen to catch this snake and were wondering if you would be interested in coming out to Zululand to help us capture it? We would be willing to cover your costs and pay a fee if necessary. If coming all the way to Zululand would not be an option for you, we would be very appreciative of any advice you could offer on how best to capture this snake and what steps we can take to prevent mambas from settling so close to our house in future (we have already killed 2 other 3m black mambas in and around our house in the past 3-4 years). I very much look forward to hearing from you, kindest regards, Cathy.

  • Riaan van Niekerk

    Is it true that mothballs do repell not only insects but also snakes. So if you use it extensively in my camps will it help to repell snakes as well

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    i m masroor ahmed,final year student of textile designing,pakistan institute of fashion and designing lahore pakistan,and doing my thesis to produce such a fabric that can repel snakes,the fabric will contain a natural material rather than any chemical treatment or finishes,if any one have any revelant material or information plz mail me…………and any one intresting in participation in my project than please wellcom any time…….my project is in the mid point plz as sonn as possible……….plz waiting…00923054593869 is my personal contact no,can contact me any time

  • Judith Thompson

    We are going to Tanzania in February. Is there a place in the states (I was told Calif.) where the anti venom is available and how much does it cost?

  • rikus

    what is the best way to safely catch a snake

  • Rich

    Hi I am going to South Africa to play golf this week, 3 rounds in Cape Town & 3 rounds in Sun City, am I likely to come across a Black Mamba on the golf course at theses locations or any other type of Snake

    Regards

    Rich

  • Adrienne

    Can you eat a Black mamba, or any other poisonous snake? I know rattlesnake is good, but what about over there?

  • Hannah

    Does the Black Mamba have any Symbiotic relationships with another animal besides predator and prey (ex: mutualism, commensalism, parasitism)? Are there any books that are just about the black mamba?

  • Katrina

    How can you tell the difference between a non deadly garden green snake and a Boomslang?

  • joshua hill

    i love what you are doing my favorite animal is the snake i love black mambas i would like to go to africa someday
    and help you and save the black mambas! would i have to be a herpitoligyst exuse me if i spelled that wrong anyways
    please message me back thank you

  • Thomas scarborough

    i was wondering if a person would need a license or permit to milk a snake and sale the venom to companies to make antivenom.

  • greg holm

    do you know any african stories about how the black mamba can’t catch a running person? ive hear that there is but i can’t seem to find any. and any good websites to find information i would need to know about snakes to become a herpatologist?

  • Kelvin Minder

    Thea are mamba bites as deadly as a rattlesnakes or a inland taipan if son on a scale of one to ten would the mambas bite be number one or not?

  • Kelvin Minder

    Are Black mambas as deadly as a rattle snake or an inland taipan? If so how deadly are they compared to those two snakes.

  • Paul

    About how many thousand black mambas curently live in the wild? Thanks!

  • Wei

    I’ve just watched the PBS film about Black Mamba. I’m very impressed with the story. I admire what you are doing. You are just doing what you interested and try your best to help people.
    I’m a Chinese living in south-east part of mainland. People around me(including me) seems all rushing to earn more many in order to buy bigger house or better cars and so on. What’s wrong with us? We may all lost ourselves in developing economics. We may have to care more about the nature, the world is not only belong to our human beings, there are much more colourful species, they also have the rights to share this world.

  • Jessi

    What happens if you get bitten by a snake and you don’t know what species it is – can doctors administer several types of anti-venom on a person?

  • Joao

    Dear Thea,
    A snake which I believe to be a black mamba has entered my property. Sha has been spoted twice inside the chicken and duck yards. My property is only 6Ha with high walls all around and lots of indigenous trees and plants I am preserving and multiplying for the garden. I am very worried as I have small children who also love nature and play freely all arround the place we also have numerous animals. i am now very worried and I do not feel safe anymore and am being very conservative abut leaving my children playing arround and about the animals and poultry, ducks the two goats we have and the horse. May you please assist me in how I can handle this and remove the snake from my property and in future minimize the chances of them to enter there ?
    Thanksand regards,

  • Tiffani

    How old do you have to be to legally train to rangle snakes in the state of Tennessee

  • david rowland

    Hi I was just watching your program and was bought to tears by the shoes found of the 13 year old girl I respect what you are doing and a kean lover of all worlds wildlife. What a dream job but also must be hard at times. I wish I could help in some way.

  • Ed

    Can a black mamba kill another black mamba, in other words will their venom kill them?

  • Gill

    Hi Thea,
    I think I have a black mamba in my garage (a khaki-coloured snake with a pale creamy underbelly). I saw it in my car headlights when I came home tonight. As I opened the door by remote I somehow disturbed it, and I saw it go in and under the workbench – which has lots of old pieces of wood and junk stashed under it. There is a door that leads from the garage into the house and I have stuffed an old towel under there to stop the snake coming into the house. How on earth will I find it and catch it? Our garage is also our storeroom and laundry. I am also nervous to park my car in the garage now; is there a chance the snake could climb into the engine (I have heard of that happening). Our garage is very well utilised throughout the day. Is the snake likely to leave of its own accord? I live in Kloof near Hillcrest (KZN, SA), and have quite a bushy large garden with small stream which recently came down quite strong with heavy rain.

  • Rik

    Hello Thea, 1st I want to say that, you are very brave. My question to you is, if a black mamba bits a human, and if he/she dont get any medical assistance, till what time a human can survive. I mean, whats the average time a human dies after been stricked by a mamba.

    Is the mamba’s venom more poisonous than cobras? Apart from the speed and appearance whats the most dangerous thing about mamba? The Venom?

  • JILL HOLMES

    This morning I was in the pet shop (Westville Checkers) and a woman was telling the sales assistant that a Black Mamba had killed her two Jack Russels and two Rottis and they had then killed the snake.
    The sales assistant reaction was quite startling – “pleased you killed the snake and all snakes should be killed! The customer had left the shop and I said her snakes are part of our eco system and I am sure the Black Mamba had no intention of attacking the dogs but probably the Jack Russels had gone for it and the snake protected its self.
    She wanted to know what good snakes do – if you have any information for me I will pass it onto her.

    Very sad for the owners of the dogs and the snake.

  • Rachel

    Hi Mrs. Thea,
    Im doing a school project, i live in the us of a i was wondering how long it takes for a black mamba’s venom to kill a person, i cant find it online and as soon as i saw your website i knew you were the one to ask,

    thanks,
    Rachel

  • Jimmy

    Can you tell us about the steps or experience that people who have been bit feels and goes though and how the mamba interacts with other big predators in Africa such as lions, and wild dogs.

  • Natalie Traughber

    Is it possible for black mambas to give unvenemous bites?

  • Amy

    Hello, Thea-
    I love and admire the work you are doing with these snakes, first off. Snakes get such a bad rap. It’s nice to see someone who is in touch with these animals and what they are all about.

    I hope this hasn’t been asked before, but I have kept snakes since I was about 8 years old and am an avid herpetoculturist. People ask me all the time if snakes have personalities. Most people don’t think they do, but I know all of mine are very different, even ones that are the same species. Do you notice different “personalities” in all the mambas you study?

    Thanks, and again, you rock for what you do!

  • Deborah

    Greetings Thea AND Clifton,

    I am now watching the PBS World TV program on Black Mambas
    and have just seen the surgery implanting transmitters in four snakes.
    I admire the work of you both, and commend Clifton for
    moving through fear because of love and support of your work.

    Wishing you both continued good fortune and health.
    Thank you for all that you do.

    So wonderful that the local Swazis can count on you, your expertise,
    and always prompt and timely availability.

    all the best,
    Deborah Monday, June 4, 2012 I live in Connecticut in the US

  • Ryan

    I greatly admire your efforts to protect both people and black mambas in Swaziland.

    First off, is the fatality rate a factor of the quantity of venom, where treatments that reduced the quantity in the body could be useful, or do the properties of the venom cause any quantity at all to be fatal?

    Second, how could I go about making a monetary donation to support your research, equipment, etc.?

  • Lisa

    Thea, you are amazing! I live in Atlanta, Georgia (US) and literally within five minutes of arriving at our camp in Kruger (my first trip to SA) I almost stepped on a boomslang and then had a black mamba overhead on our outdoor terrace. Our guide said to me “lady, what is about you and deadly snakes?”. I respect and am fascinated by these animals but I am embarrassed to tell you that I am afraid to come back after that first experience the first day. Are there any parts of Africa that do not have venomous snakes or a time of year when it would be less likely to see them? We came in November. Thank you so much for any answer you might have to get me over my fear if returning to what was the most magical place I have ever been.

  • Linda

    Hi thea,

    Some great advice here. Im from Zimbabwe, and We have always had problems with Mambas in our garden for some reason ( theres a rocky outcrop just outside our fence, but sadly as it doesnt belong to us anymore, we cant do anything about it). Just this week we had a two metre Mamba come in, that we tried to relocate, very scary for someone who isnt the best with snakes!. Anyways I believ they are terrotorial and travel in pairs is this true?
    Slightly nervous as my 6month old daughter with be soon crawling around out there…..!

  • Michael

    Hey Thea, firstly I commend you for the work you do. May God bless you and the people you work with. I live in Mbabane and recently we had a snake invade our home, I’m terrified of snakes and so is my family. Sadly the snake was killed. It was light blackish/stone grey in colour with a nude under belly and about 4 feet long, do you have any idea what snake it was?

  • Nazeer

    Hi Thea

    I am from South Africa and live on a farm close to Mokopane (Potgietersrus). We occasionally encounter snakes, ainly little ones. Just recently we spotted a Black Mamba and watched it slither up a ventilation pipe into the ceiling of our home. We have a thatch roof and fortunately have a ceiling. I have reason to believe that this could be its hiding place and it might be feeding off the rodents in the ceiling. We had rodents in our ceiling the previous year but this year find that there is nothing. I would like to know what safety measures should we have in place and how should we react when encountering this snake again. Do you perhaps know of anyone in our area that can assist in getting rid of this snake too. Terrified!

  • Michaela

    if a black mamba releases all its venom how long does it take to get it back ? please reply i would love to know thank you!

  • Michaela

    if a black mamba releases all of its venom how long does it take for it to get more. please reply soon i would love to hear back! p.s i’m writing a report about black mambas i watched some of your videos i’m in 5th grade i’ve enjoy watching your videos, thank you

  • michaela

    if BLACK MAMBA releases all of its venom how long would it take to make more? please reply soon i watched many of your videos because i was doing a report at school i am only ten and i’m in 5th grade i would love to hear back soon! love Michaela.

  • Jagdeep Singh

    Hi Thea,

    I am writing this from India.

    You are a very bold woman.

    It’s unbelievable.

    - Jagdeep Singh
    India

  • Wayne

    Hi Thea,
    I have captured both venemous and nonvenemous snakes since I was very young here in the United States and abroad. I am ashamed to say that I was bitten twice by rattlesnakes when I was younger, however, I have not been bitten in over 20 years. I believe this is mainly due to experience that comes with age.

    Anyway, I am going with an overalnd company, Africa-in-Focus, to Tazania and Kenya this coming summer. I am going to try to look for and photograph mambas and any other snakes I find in the Serengetti and elsewhere. How would you say is the best way to find diurnal species such as the black mamba besides beating down abandoned termite nests? (which I don’t want to do!). Also, do you ever have other people visit you to go with you on your snake rescue/calls? I know you are an expert, and any advice you could give me would be very much appreciated!

    Thanks,
    Wayne Bates

  • M’Feet (Mike)

    Having lived in Swaziland most of my life I am quite aware of snake. The issue for me is the lack of education regarding snakes. Every snake that is a dark colour is automatically named as a Mamba and killed without hesitation – that is even the grass snake. A green grass snake is killed as many of the people believe this to be the Green Mamba. Like with the Mocambique Spitting Cobra, when one confronts a cross Black Mamba one knows all about it, and running does help as the snake will not go that far off from its base. Time and time again I have seen the Ringkals being killed and named as a Black Mamaba. On a farm the Cobra is a friend, killing off rats and vermon, as long as one gives it the right respect. I would not enjoy sharing the same house with a Black Mamba, less so if it were in a bad temper. Usually they are fairly timid until entering the nest area.
    Is James Culverwell still in Swaziland, Mbabane?
    He did catch and collect many different species which were kept in vast concrete disused farm water tanks, have you come across him?

  • Josh

    Hello Thea,
    I was wondering what would be some likely outcomes if the Mamba were to be introduced into the US on a large scale… Would it mate with other species of snakes and if so would mating with a Diamondback ( for example) be extraordinary in your opinion? Would they pose a threat to other species of snakes maybe?

  • Dainis

    I personally love snakes. I have never encountered a deadly snake like mamba or other venomous snakes. I live in Latvia and the only venomous snake we have is Vipera berus. It isn’t highly venomous but it can kill a child or sick adult if the bite isn’t treated properly. Although I have not been trained to deal with black mambas, I would love to catch one someday and then, of course, release because they deserve to live .

  • Corné

    Hello Thea,
    I live on a farm in Mpumalanga and we have a lot of Rinkhals snakes here. As it become very hot here, we leave the windows and doors open sometimes.
    I would like to know if they can crawl up against walls or over walls? Can I leave the windows and doors open?
    Thank you.

  • David

    Good day Thea

    Live in South africa , in the kalahari area

    As a young boy i was told that the black mamba calls out if in distress and that its partner will come to its rescue.

    Is there any truth in this and if so is it true that they make a sort of baby cry sound?

    What other sounds or actions does a mamba make or take when in distress or mating?

    Many thanks for your info on the net

  • Fernando

    Hi Thea. I have just relocated to Big Bend in Swaziland and am terrified of snakes. Almost walked into a nest I believe today on the golf course at Ubombo. Can you recommend any particular breed of dog who is very good at dealing with them on the property. Cheers

  • Gabriella R

    Hi thea!
    I’m in grade 6 and am doing a project on Egypt and would like to ask how many people on average the black mambas kill per year. This is already overdue so i would really appreciate if you replied asap!

  • eugene

    Hi. Great work with the snake handling. I’m a 21 year old firefighter from south africa and we sometimes get called out to catch snakes. But I do have to admit that I’m totaly terrified of all snakes , but because I love my job I have no choice to serve the public , my question is , how do I overcome my fears , I’m so scared of black mambas and we have lots in the area. Please help . And a lot of people have asked me if snakes can crawl into your bed while you sleeping. Is it true. Can they.

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