Dispholidus typus Boomslang
Mara River Camp, Maasai Mara Game Reserve, KenyaJuly 18, 2000
Boomslang (Dispholidus typus)
OK, I didn't promise you a good picture of a boomslang, did I? Throughout Kenya, I was hoping to see snakes (as usual), but our guide was, as he admitted, hoping not to see snakes. I almost got out of Kenya without seeing a single snake. But in the middle of the day, when most people were taking afternoon naps in their tents, I went a-wandering around the thinly wooded area near the tented camp. I noticed a flash of motion and saw a small green snake that had been on the ground zip up the nearest tree trunk. In the low light I managed to get this one terrible photograph before it dashed up the tree and out of sight.

I had this lousy picture in my slide collection for two years before I obtained the Field Guide to the Reptiles of East Africa by Spawls, et al. By checking into every green snake that lives in the area, I've convinced myself that this was a boomslang. Boomslangs have a distinctive egg-shaped head and very clear scale lines, both visible in this picture. They are also fairly common and extremely good climbers. The few other solid green snakes in the area looked enough different that I'm satisfied with this identification.

Boomslangs are members of the Colubridae family, which was historically thought to consist only of harmless snakes. However, in 1957 prominent herpetologist Karl Schmidt died from the bite of a boomslang, and Colubridae lost its innocent reputation.

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