THE GABOON VIPER(Bitis gabonica)

The Gaboon Viper is the heaviest viper in the world and can reach lengths of nearly 7ft. It also has the largest fangs of any snake. The fangs of large Gaboon Vipers can measure 2 in. in length. It has very large venom glands and can inject venom in copious amounts. The venom is injected deep into the tissues and is very potent. Its venom is similar to that of its close relative the Puff Adder,but is considered to be slightly more toxic. Due to the fact that it's venom is injected in such large amounts, a bite from the Gaboon Viper can be much more serious. Regardless of this the Gaboon Viper is more placid than the Puff Adder and bites occur much less frequently than is so with the Puff Adder, however, bites do occur and when they do, it is very serious.
The Gaboon Viper is considered to be one of the most beautiful of snakes. The only snake that is perhaps more beautiful is its other close relative, the Rhinoceros Viper(bitis nasicornis), which has a similar pattern but is more brightly colored.


The Gaboon Vipers cryptic coloration and geometrical pattern give it excellent camouflage and even as large as it is, it becomes nearly invisible on the forest floor, making it very easy to step on. It is said that even when it is stepped on, it rarely bites. (don't try it to findout!) From its hidden position in the leaves it lies motionless in ambush, waiting for prey to come within its striking range. Like the Puff Adder, it too strikes with incredible speed and force which belies its large sluggish appearance. When it strikes its prey, it may quikly release or hold on. Much of the time it chooses to hold on and with its large fangs, even if it didn't inject venom, it would likely be fatal to its prey.

Due to its placid nature, and its beauty, it has become a very popular "pet" venomous snake, however, what has to be remembered is that it is NOT

a "pet" in the conventional sense of the term. It's not uncommon to hear owners call their "pet" Gaboon Vipers cutesy little names like "gabby" or "boony" and act as if they and the snake are best friends. To each his own, however, this a very dangerous mentality to develop, which often leads to carelessness. This is one of the most dangerous snakes on the face of the planet, a fact many either don't realize, or choose to ignore. I have handled many Gaboon Vipers and most of the time they are only willing to hiss. At other times they may be sitting well on the hook and then go ballistic and do a great impression of a Mamba, taking off with greater speed than you'd think possible for such a large, heavy snake. At still other times they will strike when its least expected, and as with the Puff Adder your only warning may be a slight movement of the eye. There have been several reports of private keepers being bitten by thier Gaboon Vipers. One man I read about, thought his Gaboon Viper was tame, put his hand in the cage to remove its water bowl, and was immediately bitten. He was extremely lucky to survive. These snakes are not "pets" and cutesy names are apt to detract from the healthy respect that these snakes must be shown.

I personally have been struck at by the Gaboon Viper at times that I really didn't expect them to strike. None of my venomous snakes are considered pets. Sometimes the penalty for stupidity is death. And rightly so.

Gaboon viper