Green Mamba Capture Injury

3/26/04 - Another load of snakes has been imported to Florida with the same type of highly traumatic capture injuries. Importers have been alerted to the identity of the exporter who is perpetrating the abuse. We are working hard to save as many of these animals as we can and to keep them comfortable. If you can help "adopt a mamba" please support us by purchasing one of our manuals or by making a donation. Click here if you can help or contact us directly by email. Click here to see a slideshow of the new patients and their progress.


This female East African green mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps) was severely injured during its capture for sale to the American wildlife trade. Injuries such as broken ribs, neck wounds made by crude wire capture nooses, broken jaws and deliberately torn-out fangs are commonly seen in such imported animals. Animals may be teased into biting an old shirt or a rag, which is then yanked out suddenly, ripping away the snake's deeply embedded fangs and sometimes parts of its jawbone.

Both of this snake's lower jawbones are broken and exposed, and the ligament between them is torn. Later radiographs (x-rays) showed multiple fractures to the dental bone and lower jawbones. Caseated pus can be seen on the upper jaw being debrieded with a cotton swab. Both fangs are missing and there appears to be damage to the upper maxilla as well. Note the compromise to the right palatine artery. This structure also appeared to be slightly asymmetrical in our healthy control subject. Click here to view the x-rays.

A test of the subject's pupillary responses demonstrated that cranial and optical nerves were intact and the damage was to the bone and soft mouth tissues only.

This is the mouth of a normal, healthy female green mamba which we studied to better understand the normal anatomy of this species. This snake is fully anesthetized and has insufficient jaw muscle tone to close its mouth. The handling technique depicted is not a safe grip on a fully conscious venomous snake. She is being gently supported because she cannot move on her own, and carefully monitored to make sure her heartbeat and respirations stay within the safe range under anesthesia.

This healthy green mamba has normal fang structures for the species and good mouth coloration, in contrast to the injured specimen above.

The injured animal was given Buprenex .02mg/kg q48 and Ceftaz ICe q72 plus fluids. Debriedment and evaluation of granulation tissue was also scheduled every 72 hours under general and local anesthesia. This animal cannot be restrained while conscious because struggling would exacerbate the already serious injuries to her cranium. Unfortunately this particular animal has proven extremely resistant to benzodiazepine doses that are effective on other snakes, including other green mambas, so we are inducing with isoflourane. 5mg/kg of Diazepam, ten times the normal dose for successful sedation in elapid snakes, does not appear to significantly affect this particular specimen. We increased the dosage of pain relief medication in case the stimulus of pain was negating the relaxant effects, to some good effect.

When this animal healed and recovered and was no longer in pain, she was easily sedated for her final x-rays with the standard dose of Diazepam. This appears to suggest that pain in a reptile can have a measurable clinical effect on its ability to metabolize drugs.

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