Mozambique: New Venomous Snake Discovered in Cabo Delgado

Maputo — A researcher at Lurio University, based in the northern Mozambican province of Nampula, has discovered a species of highly venomous snake not previously known in the country.

The species is Thelotornis Usambaricus, which belongs to a group of snakes commonly known as twig snakes. Previously, this species was only known from Tanzania, but the researcher, Harith Farooq, discovered it when he was undertaking a survey of terrestrial wild life on Vamizi island, in the Quirimbas archipelago, off the coast of Cabo Delgado province.

Farooq caught two of the snakes, which he could not immediately identify.

He sent one of the animals to the Natural History Museum in Zimbabwe to ascertain its taxonomic classification. This work was done by the zoologist Donald G. Broadley, who discovered the species in Tanzania in 2001.

The second of the snakes is now in the reptile collection kept in the branch of Lurio University in the Cabo Delgado provincial capital, Pemba.

Thelotornis Usambaricus is a member of the Thelotornis genus of back-fanged snakes. Its venom is hemotoxic – which means that it destroys red blood cells. This type of venom can disrupt blood clotting, and cause generalized tissue damage.

It is much slower acting than the neurotoxic venom (poison that affects the nervous system) of snakes such as the black mamba. However, no anti-venom has yet been developed for Thelotornis poison, and although bites are rare, fatalities have been recorded in Tanzania.

This snake usually conceals itself in trees, from which it strikes at its favoured prey – lizards, frogs and sometimes birds.

With this discovery, the number of snake species known to exist in Mozambique has risen to 96.

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