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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Species Fact Profile: Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica)

Gaboon Viper
Bitis gabonica (A.M.C. Dumeril, Bibron, & A.H.A. Dumeril, 1854)

Range: Sub-Saharan Africa
Habitat: Rainforest
Diet: Rodents, Ground-Dwelling Birds
Social Grouping: Solitary
Reproduction: Mate in rainy season (September through December), viviparous (live birth), 30 or more offspring born after 7 month gestation period, no parental care after young are born
Lifespan: 18 Years (Captivity)
Conservation Status: Not Listed

  • Largest of the Old World vipers, with an average adult length of 1.2 meters (up to 2.2 meters), weighing up to 10 kilograms; males and females look alike, but females are heavier
  • Longest fangs of any venomous snake, up to 5 centimeters long, with highest venom yield of any snake; females have proportionally shorter fangs than males
  • Base color is brown or purple with pattern of yellow hourglasses or triangles along the back with heavy speckling/stains, excellent camouflage for lying amid the leaf litter
  • Males compete for females by wrestling, trying to pin each other to the ground, never using their venom on one another
  • Sluggish in movement, locomotion is "walking", inching forward like a caterpillar
  • While primarily feeding on rodents, their large size means they can swallow animals as large as rabbits, monkeys, porcupines, and even royal antelope
  • Nocturnal, spend the days in hiding and emerge around sunset, lying still and waiting for prey to cross its path
  • Two subspecies: nominate, from Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa; B. g. rhinoceros, from West Africa
  • Generally unaggressive if left alone; if threatened, will give a very loud hiss and may bite.  Their venom contains hemotoxin and neurotoxin; human survivors have had affected limbs amputated 

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