Gaboon viper

Bitis rhinoceros

A portrait of a Gabon viper crawls across the floor at Hellabrunn Zoo. IUCN Red List endangerment category: Least concern
  • Family
    Vipers (Viperidae)
  • Habitat
    Rainforest floor

Master of camouflage

The West African Gaboon viper is a master of camouflage. Its skin colouration pattern helps it blend in with the leaf litter on the forest floor. It hunts by ambush, often lying motionless for hours, waiting for suitable prey to pass by. Once within range, it strikes with a speed of ca. 100 km/h. The Gaboon viper’s diet consists primarily of small mammals up to the size of cats.

A Gabon viper in the Hellabrunn Zoo.

Record breaker

The West African Gaboon viper is the heaviest venomous snake in the world, weighing up to 10 kg. It also has the longest fangs – a staggering 5 to 7 cm long – and a very high venom yield. Although its venom is not the most toxic, its needle-sharp fangs can penetrate leather boots to deliver a potentially fatal dose. Fortunately, it rarely bites humans.

Scientists studying the effects of snake venom have discovered many medical benefits. Applications include making anti-venom and cancer research.

Distribution

Distribution