Monday, March 5, 2012

Gaboon Viper

Bitis gabonica
The Gaboon Viper of Sub-Saharan Africa has a couple of important distinctions. Is has the highest venom yield among its family members, the longest fangs (up to 2in!), and the largest weight.

Gaboon Vipers hunt at night in forested areas. Their scale patterning makes for excellent camouflage among the leaves. They hunt small mammals, birds, and amphibians by waiting quietly and then ambushing with their deadly fangs and venom.

Female Gaboon Vipers only breed once every 2-3 years, but when they do they can have as many as 60 offspring at once! And these are not eggs, the young snakes enter the world via live birth! One interesting fact I found is that these snakes are rarely bred by zoos. There is so much breeding going on in the pet industry that zoos and aquariums are asked to take in confiscated animals.

Yes, some people actually do keep these venomous snakes as pets! A man who lives in my county was bit by one of his Gaboon Vipers last year, and bites can be fatal in humans (he lived). The venom attacks the blood vessels and causes internal bleeding, swelling, and intense pain.

IUCN Status : Not Listed
Location : Africa
Size : Length around 5ft (1.5m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Reptilia -- Order : Squamata
Family : Viperidae -- Genus : Bitis -- Species : B. gabonica

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