When on project and visiting a foreign country, we rarely stop to consider the risks. And that is why I have stopped to ask myself what are the dangerous animals in Sierra Leone.
My last major project of 2016 and we encountered one of the most dangerous animals in Sierra Leone. The Black Mamba
Talking to a Professional
On this adventure, I had with me a medical professional and former military personnel, Dr Charles Roberts. Armed with a wealth of knowledge on the topic, he talked me through his personal experience of the most dangerous animals in Sierra Leone.
Q: Charlie, what was your first experience with a Black Mamba?
I have now encountered mambas on two occasions, both in Sierra Leone. In fact, the first experience was with a Green Mamba.
We were sailing up river, attempting a crossing of the Little Scarcies river, when an adult Green Mamba popped up and swam alongside us for a few metres. The local from Kamakwie, I was travelling with was terrified of snakes. I soon understood why once he told me that each year a number of people die from bites received from Mambas in the bush.
Dangerous Animals in Sierra Leone
Q: Green or Black, what are the differences?
As you travel across Africa, you will naturally encounter different varieties of Mamba. But in general the major distinctions (besides colour) are that the Black Mamba is usually longer and heavier than Green Mambas.
A useful point to note here, the Black Mamba is the fastest snake in the world, but not the Green Mambas.
Q: Anything else to know about the Black Mamba then?
Yes, of course. Crucially – Black Mambas are more venomous and inject a higher volume of venom, compared to the Green Mamba. Consequently, mortality rates from a bite from a Black Mamba is almost 100% certainty.
As I mentioned, I encountered my first Green Mamba as it swam in the river. This piece of information reflects their preferential habitats. The Black Mamba prefers dry habitats, whilst the Green Mamba prefers the wet and cooler habitats.
Q: Let’s get Medical, how long do I have if I am bitten by a Black Mamba?
The venom of either of these snakes attacks the nervous system as it is neurotoxic, and will cause a human to collapse within 45 minutes, and brings death within a few hours.
Q: Your advice for what to do following a bite?
- Firstly it is important to sit the victim down, and try to calm them.
- Wrap the bite relatively tightly with a bandage or cloth away from the heart, and get the victim to anti-venom immediately- ideally by carrying them however you can.
- Panic or exercise makes the heart beat faster and will pump blood around the body quicker and with this blood- the snakes deadly venom.
- Disturbing the bite can make the venom get into the tissues more quickly, so don’t believe wives tales of sucking or cutting it out. Even washing it can speed the venom’s absorption.
If it is possible to identify the type of snake, make a record of what species it is or what it looks like. Do not try to catch the snake or go near it- you could yourself get bitten, and then you are another casualty.
Q: How was your experience each time you encountered one of these dangerous animals in Sierra Leone?
Each time we were around 5 hours from the nearest hospital. A bite out there would have been catastrophic.
But useful to remember, snakes only attack if provoked, so moral of the story is- don’t provoke a mamba, green or black, for it might just be the last thing you do.
Green or Black
Dr Charles Roberts has extensive knowledge of deployments into hostile environments and tackling medical emergencies. As co-founder of WildMinds, an extreme circumstances training and organiser of life-changing medical electives overseas, Charlie is either training fellow adventurers how to prepare for dangerous scenarios or planning adventurous experiences.
For more on dangerous animals in Sierra Leone read the full article and series on dangerous animals on WildMinds – How to Recognise a Green or Black Mamba
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CHALLENGE YOURSELF TO ENDURE
Wild Minds trains people to be prepared and face challenges head on. Exposure to physical and mental scenarios by highly trained and experienced servicemen, prepares you body and mind for the challenges ahead.
Wild Minds (http://www.wildminds.co)
Wild Minds offers adventure travel to countries such as Sierra Leone, where we have developed solid support networks and can offer adventurers experiences that we know we enjoy and hope others do too.
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