West African Gaboon Viper

West African Gaboon Viper Bitis rhinoceros

Type of Animal:

Rainforest, wet damp areas, humid forest, savanna, woodlands adjacent/nearby to rainforests/humid forests, forest edge, cacao plantations, swamps, still/moving waters, agricultural areas near forests, open rural settings, roads, found from sea level to 4,900 ft

W Africa from Guinea to Togo

Multi-patterned coloration, big leaf-shaped head, largest pitless viper in world, 2 large nasal horns on snout, very well camouflaged, stout heavy body

Small & medium-sized mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, tortoise eggs, insects

Status in Wild:

Breeding from zoos, breeders, & wildlife centers


Additional Info:

Young: Snakelet
Group: Solitary

Male: 15-17 lbs
Female: 22-25 lbs

7 months 

Life Span:
20 years

Body Length:
Male: 5 ft
Female: 6 ft
Young: 2.5 ft

Tail Length:
1.14 ft, same for both sexes

Main predators of adults are monitor lizards, crocodiles, rock pythons, large raptors, & felids. Predatory fish (in water), cobras, lizards, & predatory birds prey on young.
These snakes ovoviviparous, carrying eggs in body until birth time. 8-60 snakelets come out as live young & like all venomous snakes are venomous from birth.
Females breed every 2-3 years.
Sexually mature at 3 years old.
Camouflage aids in hunting-these snakes are ambush predators.
Also called West African Gaboon Adder & Forest Puff Adders.
Primarily active at night (nocturnal).
Males compete by rubbing chins on back of each other-they then intertwine necks & push each other’s heads to ground.
While dangerous to humans, beneficial because they control rodent populations.
Heaviest venomous snake in Africa.

Fun Fact(s):
Has evolved ability to retain feces for incredibly long period (sometimes a few years).
Sometimes hybridize w/ smaller closely related Rhino Vipers, creating Gabino Vipers.
If harassed, these snakes will raise upper body & hiss.
While highly venomous/dangerous, these snakes tend to be very docile. Most bites occur because it was stepped on/provoked, which is fairly easy to do due to camouflage. However, they produce largest amounts of venom for any venomous snake w/ longest fangs of any venomous snake (up to 2 in)-venom combination of cytotoxic (attacking/destroying cells/tissues) & hemotoxic (attacking circulatory system/muscle tissue). While slow-moving, they have very fast strike range (175-200 mph).
Most common bite symptoms rapid/conspicuous swelling, intense sharp pain, severe shock, & local blistering. Other symptoms are uncoordinated movements, peeing/pooping oneself, swelling of tongue/eyelids, heart damage, necrosis, bruising, & unconsciousness.
West African Gaboon Viper, Lincoln Park Zoo, me

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