Gaboon Viper Facts

Moumita Dutta
Feb 29, 2024 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Fact-checked by Smriti Chaudhary
Fun Gaboon viper facts that will amaze you.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.8 Min

A Gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica) is the largest viper found across the eastern and western regions of Central Africa.

The species belongs to a viper family of highly venomous snakes with the largest fangs among any species of vipers. The Gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica) can also produce more venom than any other venomous snake in the world.

These vipers ambush passing prey and finish it by clutching it between their powerful jaws. Although it is uncommon to see Gaboon vipers bite humans, they are considerably deadly snakes with enough venom yield to put down a full-size elephant. They are lazy reptiles that do not stray far from their natural habitat. Gaboon vipers are nocturnal creatures who actively hunt at night. Gaboon viper bite effects are instantaneous in humans. Extreme pain and shock are coupled with rapid swelling and localized blistering of the skin in the bite area. The person can also experience convulsions, lose balance, have swollen tongue and eyelids, sudden defecation and urination, and become unconscious. Keep reading to know more about these vipers from Africa.

If you like reading fun articles about animals, check out the black rat snake and the water snake.

Gaboon Viper Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Gaboon viper?

A Gaboon viper is the largest species of venomous viper existing in Africa.

What class of animal does a Gaboon viper belong to?

Gaboon vipers belong to the scientific class Reptilia. However, unlike other snakes, they do not lay eggs but give birth to live babies. The number of babies could be anywhere between 8-43.

How many Gaboon vipers are there in the world?

It is hard to say just how many Gaboon vipers there are in the world. However, the ICUN has recently listed the animal's conservation status in the category of Vulnerable species, indicating that the population of Gaboon vipers is decreasing.

Where does a Gaboon viper live?

These reptiles live in tropical rainforests, savannahs, and plantations in several countries of Africa. Common locations include; Guinea, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, the Republic of Congo, Zambia, and Uganda. Gaboon vipers can also be seen in other parts of east and west Africa.

What is a Gaboon viper's habitat?

Gaboon vipers are terrestrial animals. They tend to live on forest floors covered in leaves where sunlight does not reach them properly. They typically live in rainforests and humid regions of East, West, and Central Africa.

Who do Gaboon vipers live with?

Gaboon vipers are considered to be placid-natured creatures. They tend to live solitary lives.

How long does a Gaboon viper live?

Gaboon vipers have been known to live as long as 20 years.

How do they reproduce?

Gaboon vipers generally mate during the monsoon season in Africa, between September and December. During the mating season, the male vipers fight against each other to gain copulating rights with the females. 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, whereby the female can give 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.

What is their conservation status?

Gaboon vipers are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union of Control for Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Gaboon Viper Fun Facts

What do Gaboon vipers look like?

A Gaboon viper is the venomous viper

These vipers have an almost triangle-shaped head about 5 in (12.7 cm) wide, with fangs longer than any venomous snake recorded at about 1.96 in (5 cm) lengthwise. They have distinctive rostral horns (situated in the front end, near the nose and mouth region of the body) 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 differentiated as male and female due to the difference in the number 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 quadrangles. This coloring helps them to stay hidden on the forest floor, where they lie in wait for their prey to pass them unaware.

How cute are they?

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.

How do they communicate?

Gaboon vipers are known to communicate by emitting chemical signals. They are also very good at detecting vibrations, using all these measures to find prey and mate.

How big is a Gaboon viper?

A Gaboon pit viper is about 4-5 ft (125–155 cm) long as an adult. But the biggest Gaboon viper has been known to grow more than 80.7 in (205 cm) long, which is about the same height as an ostrich.

How fast can a Gaboon viper move?

Although it is impossible to say how fast these snakes move as they tend to lie in wait for their prey instead of actively hunting them, we suggest you do not get fooled by their sluggish outward 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 in disguising it until the last moment, thus capturing the prey by surprise.

How much does a Gaboon viper weigh?

Gaboon vipers are as heavy as they are big. Some adults of this species of vipers have been known to weigh as much as 22 lb (10 kg), which is about the same weight as a black-backed jackal.

What are the male and female names of the species?

Like other members of the viper species, male and female members of this species of vipers do not have gender-specific names. They are merely known as male Gaboon vipers and female Gaboon vipers.

What would you call a baby Gaboon viper?

Young Gaboon vipers are merely called baby Gaboon vipers or snakelets.

What do they eat?

Gaboon vipers do not actively hunt their prey. They wait for their prey to cross their path and then bite it with their 1.96 in (5 cm) long fangs in a quick ambush. 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 its powerful jaws and inject its deadly venom through the bite wounds.

The diet of Gaboon vipers primarily consists of small animals, like rabbits, rats, and hares. They have been known to prey on birds, frogs, and toads, as well as anything small to medium in size available on the forest floor. Interestingly, the flawless camouflage due to the pattern on their scales makes them expert ambush predators. The Gaboon vipers, which have the longest fangs among their species, are also capable of hunting birds like doves, francolins, and guineafowls.

Are they aggressive?

Members of this species of vipers are not known for being aggressive. If highly agitated, they will sometimes rear up, hiss, and bare their fangs to their opponents as a sign of warning. They maintain a steady rhythm and flatten their head while continuing to hiss until the threat is gone. If the opponent heeds their warning, all is well and good. And if they do not, let us remind you again that their one strike carries enough venom to take down nearly 30 people.

Owing to their incredible camouflage, Gaboon vipers are lazy snakes that choose to remain hidden. However, they are known to strike quickly, and their bites are painful. They have no qualms about making anything that crosses them into an item in their diet plan. Mostly, a Gabon adder is a very tolerant viper and may allow being handled without biting or hissing violently. Although these vipers may rarely struggle or exhibit anger, avoiding direct interaction with such deadly vipers is strongly recommended.

Would they make a good pet?

This viper snake makes a relatively easy pet if you have enough experience dealing with a venomous snake as a pet. However, the calm nature of these vipers can be deceiving, so try not to be fooled. Studies indicate that 0.0005-0.001 oz (14-35 mg) of Gaboon adder venom is enough to lead a person to death instantly. If you are considering keeping this African viper as a pet, try to put them in a large, confined place. It is also crucial that you are professionally trained to handle the snake and take care of it.

Feeding these snakes can be pretty straightforward. Many pet keepers put live rodents and small animals in their enclosures. Much like in its natural habitat, it waits for the prey to come close, finds the right time to strike, and then bites it with its strong jaws. To know more about Gaboon viper care, Gaboon viper feeding, or Gaboon viper fang, we suggest you read the whole article.

Did you know...

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. The West African Gaboon viper groups have large, prominent nasal horns and one dark triangle beneath each eye, leading to the scientific name of Bitis gabonica rhinoceros. The East African Gaboon viper families either lack or have small nasal horns and two triangles beneath each eye, leading to the scientific name Bitis gabonica gabonica.

Gaboon vipers are also the heaviest among any other species of viper snakes. They can thrive in altitudes of 2296 yd (2100 m), but the forest floor of savannahs and rainforests is the preferable Gaboon viper habitat.

What is special about a Gaboon viper's fangs?

These vipers have the longest fangs of all known species of venomous snakes, not only in Africa but all around the world. The fangs of these vipers are about 1.96 in (5 cm) long, and they keep them folded along their upper jaw. Some reports on Gaboon viper venom effects indicate that it can potentially chill your blood. These vipers also have the ability to reposition their fangs while hunting to ensure that their bite falls in the right area of the prey.

How fast can a Gaboon viper strike?

Completely contradicting its sluggish outward appearance, a Gaboon viper strikes its prey lightning quick. It has one of the fastest striking speeds among viper snakes, with its head moving at about 175 -200 mph. (281.6-321.8 kph). 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 about 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.

Gaboon Viper Facts

What Did They Prey On?

Birds, toads, rabbits, hares, rats, and mice

What Type of Animal were they?


Average Litter Size?


How Much Did They Weigh?

18-22 lb (8-10 kg)

What habitat Do they Live In?

tropical rainforests

Where Do They Live?

sub-saharan africa

How Long Were They?

31.5-78.7 in (80-200 cm)

How Tall Were They?








Scientific Name

Bitis gabonica

What Do They Look Like?

Brown, purple and yellow

Skin Type


What Are Their Main Threats?

humans, trampling, cobras

What is their Conservation Status?

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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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