ASI Newsletter - August 2019 

Snakes in trees

The word arboreal comes from the Latin word “arboreus”, which means "pertaining to trees”. Arboreal snakes are snakes that have adapted to a life in the trees - spending most of their time hunting, mating and basking in the branches. They do occasionally move to the ground, usually to travel to a new patch of vegetation. Africa has a large diversity of snakes and moving into the trees created a new niche with less competition from other snake species. There are a number of snake species that are predominantly arboreal.   

Both the Western and Eastern Natal Green Snake are well known for their arboreal habits. These thin green snakes are well camouflaged in the foliage of trees where they hunt lizards, geckos, frogs and baby birds. They are comfortable on the ground, especially around streams, but often escape into trees and bushes when confronted. The Spotted Bush Snake is a great climber and probably more arboreal than the above mentioned Green Snakes. They spend most of their lives off of the ground, in trees, rock cracks, buildings and bushes in gardens. These snakes often end up electrocuted on electric fences as they attempt to climb the fence strands. The Green Snakes and Bush Snakes can often be found sleeping in trees at night, curled around the thinner branches of tall trees where they can easily drop to the ground if a predator approaches.

Spotted Bush Snakes are great climbers. 

The newest edition to our Scorpion Torch Range. 

The ASI 4 Watt Rechargeable Scorpion Torch emits Ultra-Violet fluorescent light, which exposes UV reflective markings in a scorpion’s exoskeleton. The UV Wavelength is 395nm (ideal for scorpion detection). This torch detects scorpions up to 15 m away.

Comes in a clip lock plastic case with USB charger.

Price R595.00

The Boomslang and Twig Snake are probably some of the best-known arboreal snakes. These snakes are truly masters of the trees. The Boomslang is agile and graceful as it slides between branches. They hunt for small birds and chameleons in the tree tops. Hatchling birds and bird’s eggs are often eaten and nests are frequently raided - even hard to reach nests such as those of Weaver Birds. Because of their good vision, Boomslang are quick to descend to the ground to hunt a chameleon or frog they may have spotted. They are also occasionally found basking on the ground, and a number of the Boomslang bites we have seen in the past were due to people stepping on basking snakes.

The Twig Snake is the king of tree-living camouflage, mimicking the thin branches or vines often found in trees, hence the common names: Twig or Vine Snake. The body is perfectly patterned and colour-matched to their surroundings. These snakes often descend to the lower branches of bushes and shrubs and lie motionless in the branches, watching the ground for unsuspecting passing prey such as lizards and even other snakes. Both the Boomslang and Twig Snake are really tough to find in trees and the easiest way to locate these snakes is by listening to the alarm calls of birds, which usually mob these snakes when they detect them.

Our Essential First Aid for Snakebite Kit contains:
1 x Micro Bag Valve Mask
2 x Smart Pressure Bandages (For Black Mamba and Cape Cobra bites only)
1 x roll-up Tritum splint
1 x First Aid for Snakebite Booklet

All packed in a durable zip up canvas bag.
Price R1995.00

Two other venomous arboreal snakes are the Mambas. There are four species in Africa with two found in Southern Africa. The Black Mamba is not truly arboreal and is more often found on the ground, in sugarcane fields, rocky outcrops or seen crossing roads. However, it is equally at home in trees and hunts small mammals such as rodents, Bush Babies and the occasional bird. The Green Mamba, on the other hand, spends almost all its life in trees in coastal thicket. They may come to the ground to move to new vegetation and the males are often seen in combat on the ground. However, mating usually takes place a few meters up in trees, with both snakes’ tails hanging down and twisted together. These shy snakes are seldom seen, despite their large size, as they hide in thick leafy cover and are quick to disappear when disturbed. Their bright green colour matches perfectly with the rich green leaves of the coastal forests in which they occur.

Boomslang (left) raiding a Weaver Bird nest. Green Mamba (right) climbing in coastal bush. 

The newest addition to our poster range are the Kids' Snakes of Southern Africa A3 Posters. 
Available in both English and Afrikaans. 

Order yours here:

Price R25.00

The Eastern Bark Snake is adapted to living on the trunks of trees, where they are well camouflaged with the bark of trees. It uses its orange-tipped tail to attract small lizards before grabbing them. They are often found crossing the ground to new trees and sometimes end up near lodges and other buildings in the bushveld where they may attempt to climb face-brick walls.
The Marble Tree Snake is a nocturnal arboreal snake often found in trees hunting frogs, lizards and especially geckos. They are also common on buildings and decks where they hunt geckos that are attracted to insects gathering around lights at night. 

An Eastern Bark Snake climbing the bark of a tree. 

There are a number of other snakes that are occasionally found in trees, although they are not classified as arboreal. Some of the Cobras such as Cape Cobra, Snouted Cobra and Mozambique Spitting Cobra can be found in trees, sometimes hunting (Cape Cobras are known to raid Sociable Weaver nests in the Kalahari). Forest Cobras are quite at home in trees and are often found basking a few meters off of the ground in low branches. Egg-eaters also enter trees to hunt bird’s eggs in nests and it is not uncommon to find them a couple meters off of the ground. Southern African Pythons are also well-known tree climbers. The larger pythons are a bit awkward as their weight and bulk often restricts their climbing abilities, but the younger snakes climb with ease and will hunt birds from the trees. Even Puff Adders have been found in trees! Often when the ground is wet and cold the Puff Adders will climb the lower branches to bask.

A Mozambique Spitting Cobra climbing a tree. 

One of the favorite snake removal kits for game lodges. 

The ASI Game Lodge Snake Removal Kit includes:

ASI Pro 150 Snake Tongs
Collapsible 1.5 m Snake Hook
750mm Snake Tube
Safety Goggles
3 Watt Torch and tong mount
1.5 m Canvas Carry Bag

And a FREE A1 Snakes of Southern Africa Poster

Price R2700.00

All snakes can climb, whether it be trees, rocks, or brick walls, and many of the arboreal snakes have amazing muscle control, being able to lift more than half of their body off of the ground and stretch to reach branches. Some snakes have keeled ventral scales, a line down the edges of the belly scales, giving them more grip and traction when climbing. These keeled scales are particularly prominent in Spotted Bush Snakes. However, there are very few snakes that are truly arboreal. The three main venomous tree-living snakes (Boomslang, Twig Snake and Green Mamba) account for very few snakebite incidences as they are shy and elusive, choosing to climb higher and away from threats. No snake will hang out of a tree in order to bite people passing by. Additionally, because snakes don’t have hands, they sometimes fall out of trees. They are not dropping down to attack you, they are merely panicking from your presence and falling out of the tree.

Our latest video on the Gaboon Adder is now online! Check it out here.



We offer snake handling courses to both corporate clients and members of the public who require training on how to safely remove and relocate venomous snakes. Our courses are presented by world renowned herpetologist and author Johan Marais and are FGASA endorsed and accredited with the HPCSA. More information can be found on the website or our free ASI Snakes app.

Snake Awareness, First Aid for Snakebite and Venomous Snake Handling Course

Venue: Pierneef's Kraal, Pretoria

Date: Saturday 07 September 2019

Book online here:

Snake Awareness, First Aid for Snakebite and Venomous Snake Handling Course

Venue: Cheetah Experience, Bloemfontein, Free State

Date: Saturday 21 September 2019

Book online here: 

Snake Awareness, First Aid for Snakebite and Venomous Snake Handling Course

Venue: Cradle Moon Lakeside Lodge, Muldersdrift, Gauteng

Date: Saturday 05 October 2019

Book online here: 

















Johan Marais is the author of various books on reptiles including the best-seller A Complete Guide to Snakes of Southern Africa. He is a popular public speaker and offers a variety of courses including Snake AwarenessScorpion Awareness and Venomous Snake Handling. Johan is accredited by the International Society of Zoological Sciences (ISZS) and is a Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) and Travel Doctor-approved service provider. His courses are also accredited by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). Johan is a qualified instructor for the Emergency Care & Safety Institute, in Oxygen Administration and Wilderness First Aid.












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