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Gaboon Viper: Bitis Gabonica

The gaboon viper is a large venomous snake from tropical Africa, and is notable for having the longest fangs of any venomous snake.

Gaboon vipers are usually a little over 1 metre in length, but exceptional individuals may reach two metres. Individuals are generally larger towards the west of their range. They are thickset, and like other vipers have a large triangular shaped head. The colour pattern of the lightly keeled scales is difficult to describe, being a combination of squares, diamonds and lines, but once seen once the snake is unmistakable. Usual colours for scales include various shades of brown and olive, as well as subtle pinks or purples These patterns and colours help camoflage the viper in the leaf litter in which it usually resides. The patterning and shape of the head is said to resemble a fallen leaf.

Gaboon vipers can be found in much of the tropical region of Africa. Their preferred habitat is the floor of forests or jungles, where they are difficult to see, and prey is abundant. Their usual prey includes birds, rodents and other small mammals, which are quickly dispatched after a bite from the viper's huge fangs.

The gaboon viper has natural weaponry that is many leagues above the resilience of its targets. The fangs may reach two inches in length, but fold up to allow the mouth to close. A bite administers a dose of venom which is capable of killing a man within 15 minutes. The venom disolves tissue, causing massive internal bleeding which quickly leads to death. Although these snakes are highly dangerous they cause few fatalities, because they usually live away from areas of human habitation.

Like many other vipers the gaboon viper is live-bearing, and may have litters of up to 60 young.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Viperidae

Close relatives include the Puff Adder and the Rhinoceros Viper

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