As exotic as it looks, a Gaboon viper, Bitis gabonica being its scientific name, happens to be just as deadly. Do not be fooled by their sluggish appearance, they strike lightning fast and their venom can be fatal. You can get rapid swelling, severe shock, and blisters from just one of their bites. They are one of the most venomous snakes and happen to have enough poison supply to kill an elephant. They kill their prey by keeping them locked between their powerful jaws. They do not stray far from their natural habitat except for coming out to hunt during sunsets, which happens to be the time they are most active. Their conservation status, fortunately, is not a matter of concern as of now. To know more about these vipers from Africa, we suggest you keep reading. You will find more interesting information about the East African Gaboon viper, the West African Gaboon viper, about Gaboon viper eating habits, Gaboon viper skeleton, and Gaboon viper habitat, that are sure to feed your curiosity.
Gaboon vipers, like all other types of vipers, are snakes. They are known to be the second most venomous snakes in the world.
These vipers are reptiles, but, unlike other snakes they do not lay eggs, they give birth to babies, and the number of babies could be anywhere between 30-60.
It is hard to say just how many Gaboon vipers are there in the world. As they are not listed as an endangered species, it is fair to say that there are numerous snakes of this species crawling around the African continent.
These reptiles live majorly in the tropical rainforests, savannas, and plantations of Africa like Tanzania, Nigeria, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, and the Republic of Congo among other African countries.
They tend to live on the forest floors covered in leaves where sunlight does not reach properly. They are primarily nocturnal and are known to hunt at sundown.
Gaboon vipers are solitary creatures, and it seems like they are left to their own devices from the moment they are born.
Gaboon vipers have been known to live as long as 20 years.
Gaboon vipers generally mate during the monsoon season in Africa which is between September and December. The female can get restless and sway back and forth to signal that she is ready to mate. Their average gestation period is about seven months, the female then gives birth to about 30-60 babies. There have been no records of particular parental care in the case of these vipers, so it would be safe to assume that the babies are left to fend for themselves from the beginning.
Gaboon vipers are not listed as a species of concern, as of now. This means that there are a healthy number of them crawling around and hunting their unsuspecting prey from the leaf-littered forest floor, where they stay camouflaged from potential predators.
These vipers have an almost triangle-shaped head which is about five inches wide, with fangs longer than any venomous snake recorded at about 1.96 in lengthwise. They have very prominent rostral (situated in the front end, near the nose and mouth region, of the body) horns and a dark line on the central portion of the head going downwards, with two dark spots above both sides of their jaws. The scales of these vipers are roughly ridged. Interestingly a Gaboon viper can be distinguished as male and female due to the difference in the numbers of scales they possess. The female vipers are known to have fewer than 135 rows of scales, while the male members of this species of vipers tend to have fewer than 132 rows of scales. The color patterns on the scales of Gaboon vipers are unique, with a base color of brown or purple, the patterns form a neatly aligned quadrangle shape. There are yellow or purple stains found in between the quadrangular shapes. This coloring helps them to stay hidden on the forest floor, where they lie in wait for their prey to pass them unaware.
Rather than cute, the unique patterns on the scales of the Gaboon vipers make these venomous snakes look exquisite, while also concealing them from all potential predators.
Gaboon vipers are known to communicate majorly through emitting chemical signals. They are also very good at detecting vibrations and they use all these measures to find prey and also to mate.
A Gaboon pit viper is about 47.24 inches long as an adult. But the biggest Gaboon viper has been known to grow more than 86.61 in long, which is about the same height as that of an ostrich.
Although it is impossible to say how fast these snakes move as they tend to just lie in wait for their prey instead of actively hunting them, we suggest you do not get fooled by their outward sluggish appearance. Completely contradicting their placid behavior, this adder can strike as quickly as lightning. So fast even that it is impossible to catch with the naked eye. The Gaboon viper skin patterns also aid it in disguising it till the last moment, thus catching the prey by surprise.
Gaboon vipers as heavy as they are big. Some adults of this species of vipers have been known to weigh as much as 22 lb, which is about the same weight as that of a Black-backed jackal.
Just like other members of the viper species, male and female members of this species of viper, do not have gender-specific names. They are merely known as male Gaboon vipers and female Gaboon vipers.
Young Gaboon vipers are merely called baby Gaboon vipers or snakelets.
Gaboon vipers do not actively hunt their prey. They lie in wait for their prey to cross their path unaware, and then quickly tackle them with a bite with their 1.96 in long fangs, which happen to be the longest fangs of any known viper species. Unlike other snakes, they do not just bite their prey and then release them waiting for them to die, instead when a Gaboon viper bites their prey, they keep it locked within their powerful jaws, and they keep injecting their deadly venom through the bite wounds. Their diet mostly consists of small animals, like rabbits, rats and hares. They have been known to prey on birds and sometimes frogs and toads as well, and anything small to medium in size that is on the forest floor. They are known to be the most venomous snake in Africa. Gaboon viper bite effects range from rapid swelling and severe shock to blisters, and astounding pain eventually leading to amputation. If a bite happens to inject more than a certain amount of venom it can be fatal to humans. Interestingly as their camouflage is as good as flawless due to the pattern on their scales, it is often already too late when you notice them. Those Gaboon viper fangs could already be injected into your leg before you can cry snake. So, be careful out there.
Members of this species of vipers are not really known for being aggressive. If extremely agitated, they will sometimes rear up, hiss, and bare their fangs to their opponents as a warning. If the opponent heeds their warning, all is well and good. And if they do not, then let us remind you again that their venom happens to be the deadliest in the whole Sub-Saharan Africa. They are known to strike quickly and their bites are very painful. They have no qualms about making anything that crosses them into an item in their diet plan. Mostly though, they just take advantage of their camouflage and let their prey come to them. We cannot say which would be more terrifying, stepping on this deadliest viper or being on the opposite end of a warning from a Gaboon adder.
This viper snake makes a fairly easy pet if you have enough experience dealing with a snake as a pet. But not really recommended for beginners, as they can strike so fast it is not even visible to the naked eye. Their placid nature can be deceiving, so try not to be fooled by this adder. If you are thinking of keeping these African vipers as pets, try to put them in a largely confined place, it will help with changing their water bowls or whenever you are trying to feed them. Again, do remember that even a Gaboon viper pet strikes just as fast and a Gaboon viper bite affects your whole body. Feeding these snakes can be pretty easy, many pet keepers put live rodents or such small animals in their enclosure. And, much like in their natural habitat Africa, it waits for that prey to come close to them and then bites it with everything they have. To know more about Gaboon viper care, Gaboon viper feeding, or Gaboon viper fang, we suggest you read the whole article. We are sure it will pique your interest even more.
Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.
One interesting fact about these vipers happens to be that only the East African Gaboon viper and the West African Gaboon viper are commonly called Gaboon viper.
Interestingly, these vipers do not stray far from their natural habitat.
They are known to kind of dig themselves in, which, along with their unique pattern makes it even harder for them to get detected.
These vipers have the longest fangs of all known venomous snake species of not only Africa but all around the world. The fangs of these vipers are about 1.96 in long, and they keep them folded along their upper jaw. They are also known to be the second most venomous snakes of not only Africa but of the whole world. There have been some reports on gaboon viper venom effects which can chill your blood.
Completely contradicting its outward sluggish appearance, a Gaboon viper strikes its prey lightning quick. It has one of the fastest striking speeds among snakes, with its head moving at about 175 mph - 200 mph. It is fast enough not to be visible to the naked eye.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other reptiles including the Komodo dragon and the chameleon.
You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our Gaboon viper coloring pages.