The Gaboon viper is one of the world’s most unique viper species that can be found in the rainforests and savannas of sub-Saharan Africa. Like all other vipers, this is a venomous snake.
It is the largest member of the viper in the genus Bitis, and it also has the longest fangs reaching up to 2 inches in length and also records the second-highest venom yield of any species of a snake next to the King cobra.
- Scientific name: Bitis gabonica
- Family: Viperidae
- Class: Reptilia
- Rank: Species
- Phylum: Chordata
- Conservation status: Least Concern
The Gaboon viper is the largest member of the viper family and is mostly found in West, East, and central Africa, with some spotty distribution as far south as Zululand and Zimbabwe.
While often found in rainforests and sometimes in nearby woodlands, this snake may also be spotted in thickets, farms, agricultural plantations, dunes, swamps, and coastal forests.
The average size of this viper species is 4 to 5 feet, and they may occasionally grow to attain 6 feet. The females are usually longer than the males.
The Gaboon viper is a heavy one as it can weigh as much as 18 pounds, and that has earned it the titles of one of the most massive snakes in the African continent.
Gaboon vipers have an attractive and unique pattern of colors that come in a range of shades from brown to pinks and even purples. The designs on the snake’s body help it stay hidden and camouflaged among the fresh and dried leaves of the forest floor.
Gaboon vipers have wide heads with horns (weird right?) that become present as they start to age. They’re also famous for their large fangs that can measures up to 2 inches in length, which is the longest of any existing venomous snake.
Females of this snake can give birth to young’s every 2 to 3 years, birthing as many as 50 to 60 babies in a single delivery, although the actual number of babies rarely exceeds 25.
The gestation period for these snakes usually takes about 12 months, which is one year. Typically, these snakes give birth in late summer. Their offspring are generally between 9 and 13 inches in length and can weigh between 1 to 2 ounces.
The Gaboon viper is also known to live long as they can live up to 18 years of age.
The behavior of the Gabon viper
Primarily nocturnal, the Gaboon vipers are known to be among the slow-moving and placid animals in the world. They have a reputation for hunting by ambush, often spending long waiting periods motionless, as they hope for suitable prey to happen by.
On the flip side, these snakes have been known to be active hunters, mostly during the first six hours of every night. They are also strange in behavior as they have been known to be very tolerant snakes.
Even when handled by humans, they rarely hiss or bite, unlike most other vipers. However, like other species of snakes when threatened, a snake of this specie will rear up and hiss to show off its fangs to an encroaching threat or predator.
The Gaboon viper has one of the fastest and most also one of the most lethal strikes of any serpent. Have it in mind that a Gaboon viper can strike to the sides, upwards, as well as forward. This slow-moving giant snake often crawls forward in a straight line.
They are known to sometimes writhe from side to side, but only when alarmed, and only for short distances.
Preferring to lie in wait and ambush its prey, the giant Gaboon viper lies entirely still in the leaves and bushes of the rain forest and waits for food to happen by.
With the patterns on its skin and the forest colors of the giant Gaboon viper, it is almost invisible as it lies in wait. With the longest fangs of any viper or snake on the planet, this animal injects enormous amounts of venom that quickly kills smaller prey in their tracks.
A more significant victim that has been struck will often run away, only to die later, not too far away, and be tracked down by scent. Because of their large, heavy body, the adult snakes have no problem eating prey as large as a fully grown rabbit.
These vipers are known to feed on a variety of birds and mammals, like doves, many species of rodents, such as field mice and rats, as well as rabbits and hares.
The Gaboon viper snake is also popularly known as the forest puff adder, butterfly adder, swampjack, and the Gaboon adder.
They are known to have enormous venom glands, and each bite produces the most quantity of venom of any venomous snake in the world.
Even though bites from these snakes can be fatal, they have been found to be relatively rare, as a result of the snake’s docile nature and due to the fact that their range is mostly limited to rainforest areas.
Ecology and Conservation
Gaboon vipers also play a huge role in controlling the rodent population in their habitat, which is the rainforest. Since they are apex predators, they do not have any regular predators in the wild that raises concern.
Their only known predators are human hunters. Given the natural habitat condition of this snake and it’s diet habits, this viper species’ status is categorized as being of least concern from a conservation perspective.