Black mamba in Limpopo Province, South Africa © Rod Patterson / Getty

This title goes to the black mamba, a snake that occurs in the dry bushlands of eastern Africa and is well known for its neurotoxic venom. A largely terrestrial species that can reach approximately 4m in length, the black mamba has been recorded travelling at speeds of up to 15kmph on open ground.

It moves using ‘lateral undulation’, which essentially involves moving in an ‘S’ shape and pushing off objects in its path, such as trees, rocks or even piles of soil or dirt, to gain momentum.

This is an agile and aggressive snake, readily entering burrows and climbing trees when chasing down its small mammal prey. It’s strong, too, able to lift one third of its body vertically off the ground to look you (almost) in the eye.


Sarah McPhersonFeatures editor, BBC Wildlife Magazine