South Africa is a continent that is so vast, that keeping a record of all the incidences regarding spider and snake bites is impossible.
The natural beauty of South Africa belies the increasing deadliness of one of the most dangerous places on Earth. The tropical climate ensures the perfect breeding ground for many poisonous snakes and potentially life threatening bites.
Snake bites, spider bites, as well as stings and bites from other dangerous bugs, make vacationing in South Africa a potentially life threatening endeavour.
Please note that thousands of tourists flock to South Africa annually and come to no harm. Others are not so fortunate. Some tourists have undergone surgery and months of agony from a simple bite.
Other tourists have received limb amputations, loss of sight, and have even died. Some tourists are never seen again after visiting parts of South Africa.
This is not scaremongering, meeting some deadly animals and reptiles whilst on vacation is a distinct possibility.
What Snakes are there in South Africa ?
The Black Mamba
The Black Mamba is one of the most venomous snakes in the world. It resides in East, South, and central Africa.
An extremely aggressive snake when agitated, threatened or cornered. It is the most feared of any snake in the whole of Africa.
Growing up to an incredible 8 feet in length, the Black Mamba snake has more of an olive green skin and an ink black mouth. Fatalities from venomous snakes are rare as snakes will usually shy away from human contact, but not that rare.
The Black Mamba ( dendroaspis polyepis ) can slither along the ground at 12 miles per hour and can strike its prey at least 10 times in any single attack. Each time the snake bites, enough venom can be inject to kill 8 humans in any one strike.
The venom can kill a fully grown human within 20 minutes. Antivenin is NOT widely available and the mortality rate is 100% from people being bitten and not receiving antivenin.
Black Mamba Hunting
The venom is the most fact acting venom of any snake in the world. It is estimated that 10 - 15 milligrams of venom can kill a human, each bite can deliver over 120 milligrams.
The venom is neuro-toxic, and the bite is commonly referred to as the kiss of death. Once bitten, a person on vacation in South Africa will begin to suffer dizziness, convulsions, coughing and an irregular heartbeat.
After several minutes, hypotension, excessive oral secretions, and possible loss of consciousness as well as limb paralysis and vomiting will begin as the venom spreads through the body.
Death comes through asphyxiation as the respiratory system shuts down. Even with medical treatment, five out of ten people bitten may lose their lives.
Boom Slang Snake
The snakes of South Africa come no more colorful than the boomslang snake. This rather slender snake can grow to over 6 feet in length and even a small amount of venom can be fatal to humans.
Also referred to as the tree snake, the Boom slang snake usually lives on a diet of lizards, small mammals as well as frogs, and birds and rodents. They can hibernate for small periods of time during colder spells and will even use birds nests as sleeping quarters.
Its habitat is usually in trees. Found in and near human habitats where most fatal bites occur, the tree snake is as formidable opponent as any other snake.
The venom is haemotoxin, which disables blood clotting in its bitten victim. South African Safaris are dangerous enough without visitors watching out in the trees they pass under for the tree snake.
It may take several hours for the venom to begin to affect the body after the initial bite. Some victims mistake this as an indication that the bite is not serious, then they may die.
EVERY BITE IS SERIOUS. Progressing symptoms may include dizziness, vomiting, then tiredness and even types of mental disorders. Death could follow by internal bleeding as the bloods ability to congeal is lost due to the venom spreading through the body.
The answer to the question: What venomous snakes are there in South Africa ? is almost 130 species; although only approximately 12 are considered to give fatal bites to humans.
The Puff Adder is another South African snake to avoid at all costs. It has been suggested that the Puff Adder kills more humans in South Africa than any other snake, but only because it bites more humans than any other snake.
This short snake ( about 3 feet ) can be found mainly in shrubbery and grass lands. Sandy colourings and chevrons along the length of its body are great camouflage in dry grass.
The venom is cytotoxin, which breaks down skin tissue as the venom slowly spreads through its victim. The venom can up to 24 hours to take hold, but once this has passed, there is usually no hope for the victim.
The Puff Adder is classed as an aggressive snake. It will not slither away easily scared of humans like most other snakes, but will strike out for any reason.
Other Venomous Snakes In South Africa
Most victims on vacation to South Africa whom are bitten by a snake will have been bitten by the Puff Adder.
Other snakes to watch out for and to keep away from are the Vine Snake, Green Mamba, and the Gaboon Adder.
Another family of snakes calls South Africa its home, the Cobra family.
The Cobra Snake family is the most feared family in the world.
In South Africa there is the Cape Cobra, the Forest Cobra, and the Black Sitting Cobra as well as the Snouted Cobra, and even the Mozambique Spitting Cobra is now found there.
The spitting cobras venom is not usually strong enough to kill a human, but the 'spit' will permanently blind a person if it gets into the eyes.
Emergency Snake-Bite Protocol
1) KEEP CALM
2) Keep the victim as immobilised as possible.
3) Seek medical attention NOW
4) Identify the type of snake
5) Never run or make sudden movements near a snake
Attempt to suck out the poison
Give the victim alcohol
Use very cold or hot water to clean the wound
Attempt to inject anti-venom yourself except in extreme emergencies.
Most spiders are harmless to humans. But there are still a few dangerous spiders in South Africa which are poisonous and can affect the health of an adult human quite quickly.
Darwins Bark Spider.
This spider is not really a potential threat to humans, but due to the size of its web, it can be quite a scare to run into these things.
The webs can span over thirty square feet and has been known to span many rivers. The webs can be found in woodland and other natural areas. The web itself is the worlds most toughest biological material ever discovered.
The spider itself is shy and will run away from human contact without biting or attacking in any way.
Six Eyed Sand Spider
Also called the crab spider because it movements are similar to a crab. This spider waits in sand for its victim to pass by prior to striking out.
Its venom can kill a rabbit sized mammal in a few hours, and although there have been no reported deaths from this spider amongst humans, its bite can prove to be potentially dangerous.
The venom is necrotoxic. The venom breaks down tissue and can cause multiple organ failure. Any bite by any type of bug whilst in a foreign country should be treated immediately.
Violin Spider & Bite Wound
The dainty Violin spider, also known as the Brown Recluse Spider, packs a powerful punch. Normally this spider lives in contact with humans quite harmoniously, and can be found in closets, drawers, and within dry laundry.
Typically between 6-20 mm, with varying colors, this spider is usually not alone, its mate will also be in the vicinity.
Although quite shy, most bites come when a Brown Recluse spider is caught up in clothes as a person gets dressed. The spider panics and bites. Most bites go untreated initially as many people do not even feel the bite.
But as the venom is haemotoxic, the victims skin begins to melt around the bite after a short while. The 'wound' can grow to over 20cm in diameter within weeks. Not all bites will result in infection.
Other spiders in South Africa include the Black Widow spider, which is now common place in almost every country in the world.
The Tsetse fly in South Africa is very similar to a general housefly, only this one kills.
The Tsetse fly kill almost 300,000 people ever year & and there are 23 species of the fly around the globe.
The tsetse fly in responsible for giving many humans ' sleeping sickness', and is fatal unless medical treatment is given soon after the bite. If the disease is diagnosed early enough then modern medicines can cure the onset of sleeping sickness. If the bite goes unreported, then the victim has a 90% chance of death.
Once a victim is bitten, the 'venom' will move to the lymphatic system, which will cause swollen lymph glands. It then enters the blood stream and begins to affect the central nervous system.
The migration of the venom eventually enters the brain leading to extreme lethargy and then death.
ANY BITES SHOULD RECEIVE MEDICAL ATTENTION IMMEDIATELY.
Swimming or even paddling in pond or river waters in South Africa carries a risk of its own. Parasites infect hundreds of thousands of people in Africa every year.
Snail fever, Schistosomiasis, is a parasite which although not necessarily life threatening, does cause chronic illness to over 240 million people worldwide. It does kill humans, but medical treatment reduces the chances of death.
This parasite secretes a skin melting solution to enable access. Once inside the body it is transferred to the lungs where another metamorphosis takes place.
After approximately 10 days, it has migrated to the liver. This is where they begin to feast on healthy red blood cells. The by now 10 mm parasitic worms may migrate to the kidneys, ureters, or the bladder.
After 8 weeks, the mature adults begin producing up to 300 eggs each day. Some are passed out through natural bodily waste systems, many remain within the body to begin the life-cycle again.
Have you been to South Africa ?
Singapore - killer caterpillars, swarming killer wasps, and venomous snakes.