Written by: Paula Masterson
One day when I was out in my garden in the Lower Zambezi area, I heard a vigorous movement in a purple-pod Terminalia tree under which I happened to be standing. Upon closer inspection I noticed the tails of two snakes hanging off a branch above the ground. Both snakes were moving around trying the get a good grip on a branch. Once I located the heads of the two snakes I could clearly see a vine snake with another snake in its mouth. I assume that the commotion I heard was the initial strike.
The inflated neck and keeled scales of the other snake led me to assume it was a boomslang. The colouration threw me off and it was not until I saw its head that I positively identified it as a juvenile boomslang with grey colouration and fine blue stippling.
The boomslang had managed to wrap its tail around a lower branch and was being pulled upward by the vine snake. Their bodies spanned a gap of 72cm between two branches.
The boomslang made one attempt to get free by bringing its coils up toward the head of the vine snake. When this was unsuccessful, it regained its grip on the branch.
The vine snake began to swallow the boomslang, working its jaw down the body of the snake. An hour after I first noticed the snakes, roughly 12cm of the boomslang was inside the vine snake. However the boomslang had managed to pull the vine snake down from its perch and in so doing, increased its grip on the branch below. Rapidly it pulled itself out of the mouth of the vine snake, with only its head remaining inside the mouth of the vine snake.
The vine snake held onto the head of the boomslang for a few more minutes until eventually releasing its grip. The boomslang dropped to the ground and slowly started moving away from the Terminalia tree toward the nearby Mopane woodland while the vine snake retreated up the tree.
While the boomslang was bleeding a little, it is hard to know if it was affected by the vine snake venom at all. The boomslang’s movement was sluggish but fluid and no bleeding from the eyes of cloaca was visible. It appeared that the only bleeding that occurred was due to the puncture wounds and cuts caused by the fangs of the vine snake. Perhaps the boomslang lived to fight another day?