Boomslang Snake Kills a Chameleon Quickly & Swiftly

May 26 2015

This video clip clearly displays the snake’s quick and effective hunting techniques. Simon Vegtor senior guide and co-founder of says, “Even though this snake is called a boomslang, they sometimes descend from the trees to hunt, as this snake was doing. With large, slightly front-facing eyes, this male boomslang was able to locate the chameleon with his excellent binocular vision. Once the prey is caught, the snake uses a chewing motion to manoeuvre the fangs in the back of the mouth into position to inject venom, which will ultimately kill the prey”.  We find out more regarding these species…

TB: First off how can one distinguish a boomslang? And what are the main differences between a boomslang and a green mamba?
SV: The boomslang is most easily recognised by its short head and large eyes with round pupils (they have the largest eyes of any African snake). Colour can vary extensively among boomslange, more so than in any other South African snake. Using the distinctive head shape is therefore the most reliable way to identify the snake. Some of the adult males are green and often confused with other green snakes like those of the philothamnus genus (green and bush snakes) or the much feared green mamba (and vice versa). A green mamba has a typical coffin shaped head with much smaller eyes than the boomslang and a green belly. People often erroneously identify all green snakes as green mambas. In South Africa green mambas only occur in coastal forests and they are not found within the Kruger National Park or Mpumalanga Province.

TB:  Are they diurnal or nocturnal?
SV: They are diurnal snakes.
TB: What is the general behaviour and diet of a boomslang?
SV: Boomslange mostly live in trees and bushes, using their cryptic colouration as camouflage to remain undetected. Most of their hunting is done in the trees, but they sometimes descend in pursuit of prey. They will actively hunt down their prey, which consists primarily of chameleons (and other lizards), frogs and birds.
TB: Are they toxic, and what happens should one be bitten?
SV: They are considered highly venomous with a haemotoxic venom that will cause severe internal bleeding and haemorrhage. It's a slow-acting venom with symptoms taking 24-48 hours to show. If untreated it could be fatal. Fortunately, it's a shy snake that seldom bites, and being back-fanged, venom is not easily injected even when it does bite.
TB: What is a chameleon classified as?
SV: Chameleons fall under the order squamata and is considered a type of arboreal lizard. The particular species in the video is known as a flap-necked Chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis).
TB: What is the most interesting thing you can educate us on about chameleons?
SV: Chameleons are renowned for several things including a prehensile tail, fused toes, independently moving eyes, and extendible tongue that are used for catching insects. But I guess the most famous trait of a chameleon is its ability to change colour. This is done in response to external stimuli (like temperature, light, shade) and mood as nerves control special pigment cells called 'melanophores.'

Simon concludes, “What an unfortunate end for the chameleon, but this is the nature of the nature, the circle of life in action. Some animals die so that others might live.” 

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