The Animals of the Aberdare Ranges of Kenya: Gaboon Viper

Viper Gaboon

Gaboon Viper
Bitis gabonica

The Gaboon Viper is an ambush hunter. Its habitat is the forest floor, so its striking coloration provides the perfect camouflage.

The Gaboon Viper is a very beautiful snake. It is colorfully patterned in purple, brown and shades of pastel. Its scales give the impression of soft, rich linen. Its head has the appearance of one of the leaves on the forest floor.

The Gaboon Viper has a heavy appearance. It has often been described as sluggish and placid. When it does strike, however, it does so with lightening speed and applies quite a punch to its bite. This snake is also very versatile as it can strike backwards, upwards or sideways.

Once a Gaboon Viper has attached itself to prey, it will hang on tenaciously until the victim is dead. This behavior is peculiar only to this particular species.

The Gaboon Viper weighs up to 10Kg (22lb). The head measures approximately 5 inches (13cm) and is arrow shaped. It has a pair of identical fangs, 2 inches (5cm) long – the longest of any snake in the world. Its fangs are erectile and fold backwards when not in use. Venom in stored in the broad areas of the head.

The Gaboon Viper grows to a length of 6′ (2m). It feeds mainly on rabbits, genets, monkeys and birds. It is reported that it may also take a small antelope.

The Gaboon Viper delivers a cytotoxic venom from its hinged fangs. It produces the largest venom yield of any snake in one bite.

In Kenya, the Gaboon Viper is found in the forests of Kakamega and notably in Ituru Forest. This snake is vary rare and is also the largest of the viper species. It is also easily the most striking in appearance.

The Animals of the
Aberdare Ranges of Kenya
Nyambura Kiarie

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