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Gaboon Viper

Updated on September 13, 2015
Gabbon viper
Gabbon viper

Gaboon Viper Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Reptilia

Order: Squamata

Suborder: Serpentes

Family: Viperidae

Subfamily: Viperinae

Genus: Bitis

Species: B. gabonica

Gaboon Viper Binomial name

Bitis gabonica

The Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica) is found along the equatorial belt of Africa, East and Central Africa and southeast Africa.

Among the Portuguese-speaking countries, it can be found in Guinea Bissau, Angola and northern Mozambique, but also in Guinea, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Central African Republic, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

The Gaboon viper preferred habitat are the sub-Saharan tropical rain forests and woodlands on the fringes of these forests. They are found mainly at low altitudes, but sometimes they can be found as high as 1500 m. These snakes are mostly nocturnal.

Currently there are 2 subspecies recognized, including the East African Gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica) and the West African Gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica rhinoceros). The species is also commonly known among other names as swampjack, butterfly adder, Gaboon adder or forest puff adder.

The Gaboon viper is not only the largest member of the genus Bitis is also the heaviest venomous snake in Africa. It reaches lengths up to 1.8 meters and weights in excess of 20 kg in some cases.

It has a large triangular head that tapers into a narrow neck and large and thick body. Females are generally larger, and heavier than males. Among the venomous snakes, they own of the largest fangs, the teeth of an adult snake can measure about 5 cm (2 inches).

The Gaboon viper has something like a pair of "horns" erected between the nostrils. It has a very characteristic brown band on the head. The body is pale, with tan markings, beige and yellow, which gives its excellent camouflage against the forest floor.

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Gaboon Viper - Venom

They inoculate a highly potent venom for humans and other animals. The venom itself is not considered particularly toxic if compared to that of King Cobra and Black mamba.

The Gaboon viper venom is cytotoxic, it destroys the cells and tissues. It is injected in large quantities due to the large size of the glands that secrete the venom. The length of the fangs results in the venom being injected deep in the victims body. Gaboon viper bites on humans are relatively rare, people are often bitten when they accidentally step on the snake, even in that case this species rarely bites.

They are considered extremely docile snakes, and do not usually attack humans unless they are seriously provoked, if they feel threatened, they may hiss loudly as a warning.

Gaboon Viper - Reproduction

During the peak of sexual activity in the mating season, males engage in ritualized combats. They are a viviparous snake species, giving birth to alive offspring, in this case about 30 at a time. The gestation period takes about 12 months and they Usually give birth in late summer. The Gabon Viper newborn are about 30 cm long. Females may breed only every 2 to 3 years, maybe up to a 5 year period.

Gaboon Viper - Diet

Their diet consists mainly of birds and mammals, but they also eat insects and rodents. They usually catch their prey in an ambush style, instead of hunting actively.

Gabbon Viper - Conservation status and main threats

When they are young Gaboon vipers have many predators including lizards, birds, and even fish or cats, but like other snakes their most dangerous predator are the human populations that share their habitat. Gaboon vipers are killed by humans out of fear and for their meat. However these snakes are not considered to be threatened in the wild.

I hope you found this hub on the Gaboon Viper interesting and helpful, if you enjoyed reading it you can vote it up, you can also share it with your friends.


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    • moreninha76 profile image

      moreninha76 5 years ago from Portugal

      Diana snakes scare a lot of people, but learning about them will surely help. Thanks

    • moreninha76 profile image

      moreninha76 5 years ago from Portugal

      Thanks for the comment, and yes one way to tell if a snake is venomous is by the shape of the head, if it is triangular the snake is most probably venomous.

    • Diana Lee profile image

      Diana L Pierce 5 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

      This is interesting. I have been scared to death of snakes all my life. Perhaps knowing more about them can help many of us overcome our fear.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      I was impressed the way the thing was still hungry five minutes after swallowing a decent sized mouse...

      WOW the head on that thing! Very obviously a venomous snake for the head's size and shape.