Mamba

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This African lungfish (of the Protopterus genus) is called Mamba in Uganda, and is believed to originate from Lake Victoria in eastern Uganda. Besides Lake Victoria, it can also be found in shallow streams, swamps and marshes. It is an elongated, eel-like fish with soft scales. The lungfish can either swim like an eel or crawl along the Lake’s bottom using its pectoral and pelvic fins. One unusual characteristic of this fish is that it may live for several months out of water, in burrows of hardened mud in dried up streambeds. These fish feed on a diet of crustaceans, aquatic insect larvae and mollusks. Locally, the fish is often prepared smoked and served with a groundnut paste at important events. It may also be dried and prepared in stews without groundnuts.

The Mamba is strongly connected to the Ganda people of central Uganda, and the animal is one of the oldest totems belonging to the original clans of the Buganda Kingdom. Legend says that 600 years ago a love for the taste of this fish drove one of the clan leader’s sons to seek out the fish in the lake at night. He disappeared into the lake, and the lungfish, also called Emmamba, was declared a totem, meaning that members of this clan are forbidden form eating or touching the fish, though they may drink the waters from the area where the fish is found. The clan motto is, in fact, “Ssirya Mmamba Amazzi Nnywa," literally meaning, “I never eat lungfish, but I am free to take the water.” However, this does not stop members of other clans from eating the fish, and it is now one of the Protected Species by the Buganda Kingdom under the Live Totems. There are several proverbs and sayings about the lungfish in central Uganda, such as, “Emmamba tefa ttama," literally meaning, “the lungfish does not stop biting,” because even when it appears to be dead, it may easily bite whatever comes closer to its mouth.

Along the northeastern shores of Lake Victoria, lungfish is fished particularly by those who do not belong to the Mamba Clan. It is fished for personal use and for sale at local markets. However, exact quantities are not recorded. By the 2010s, indiscriminate fishing and over fishing for export markets were threatening the survival of the Mamba fish, especially because juvenile fish are easily caught in traps set for other fish, like tilapia. Furthermore, the introduction of the Nile perch in Lake Victoria has drastically and negatively affected local lungfish populations.

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Territory

StateUganda
Region

Jinja

Mukono

Other info

Categories

Fish, sea food and fish products

Indigenous community:Ganda