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East African Gaboon Viper by Richard Bartlett on 2021-06-14 08:23:00


Dangerous but a hobbyist favorite, the East African Gaboon Viper.

By Dick and Patti Bartlett

The Gaboon Vipers, often referred to as Gaboon Adders

At one time the Gaboon Viper, Bitis gabonica, contained 2 subspecies, the east African, Bitis gabonica gabonica, and the West African, Bitis gabonica rhinoceros. The two were of pretty similar appearance, the most noticeable difference being dark facial markings and the length of the vertical nasal projections. The East African race has 2 facial markings, a suborbital triangle or spot and a diagonal temporal triangle and short horns while the West African beauty had only the diagonal temporal triangle (it lacked the suborbital spot) and long horns. The two were ostensibly capable of interbreeding.

Then along came genetics and what was one species became 2, but the external differentiating factors remained the same. Genetically, it is thought that the West African Gaboon Viper is more closely allied to the very different appearing Rhinoceros Viper than to its East African lookalike. Call them what you choose, I’ll stick with the Linnaean subspecies concept.

East African Gaboon Viper, Bitis gabonica gabonica. Everything about this snake is “very.” Very large (4 ½ -5 ½ feet long). Females are larger than males. This very heavy bodied, very well camouflaged snake that is very dangerous, very beautiful, has very short nasal protuberances (often merely a pair of bumps at the tip of the snout), and a very wide range (forest and savanna habitats) from Benin to western Kenya and south to Zimbabwe and Zululand. Food is primarily of small mammals. Only one dark triangle on each side of face. There is no suborbital spot or blotch.

They give birth to live young that may number from as few as 5 to more than 40. Neonates are 10-12 inches in length.

Gaboons may move in a typical side to side motion but are more inclined to use a straight rectilinear movement, being slowly propelled forward by ventral scale motion.
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