In the book's acknowledgments, Laita thanks "a certain Central American collector who shall remain anonymous out of fear of losing his license because of the black mamba incident."
Naturally, we had to discuss the black mamba incident.
While photographing a black mamba, Laita was bitten. He said the snake didn't attack because he had moved, which is what usually causes a snake to strike. Instead, a cord got caught and its movement spooked the snake, causing it to strike Laita while the trainer wasn't looking.
The strike was quick. So quick, in fact, that Laita didn't even realize it had happened until he noticed the blood on his leg a few minutes later. At that point the trainer did a once-over, checking Laita's heart, breathing and dizziness. Nothing was out of the ordinary. This is lucky since mambas are venomous and very dangerous to humans.
"Here I am," Laita joked. "I’m still talking about it."
The trainer offered a few explanations for why Laita wasn't harmed by the venom. For one, it was an older snake, and aged individuals tend to save their venom for prey rather than wasting it on predators that are too big to eat. It also could be that the artery in Laita's calf bled so heavily that it essentially flushed the venom out, the trainer suggested.
Laita remained calm during his recollection of the incident, but he said even he was surprised when he realized that he had actually caught the strike on film.
After the incident, Laita was looking through his photos of the black mamba. Laita was taking the pictures near his feet, as he always does, when he found a shot in which the snake's fangs were actually in his leg. "Somewhere in the middle of that I had caught a frame and I didn’t even realize it," Laita said.
- Distribution: Africa
- Habitat: Savanna, woodland, rocky hillsides
- Length: Up to 11.5 feet