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African Vipers and Adders

​There are several large viper species under the genus Bitis most well known of this group is the Puff Adder and Gaboon Viper. Puff Adders are a wide ranging snake and can be found in most of Africa, there is even a subspecies of Puff Adder that can be found in Somalia. The colour of Puff Adders varies from where they come from with lighter and darker specimens found in different localities. The most sought after Puff Adder locality in the reptile hobby is the Tanzanian Puff Adder which has lighter markings on a beautifull yellow background. Scaleless Puff Adders have been bred in captivity.  Puff Adders have a potent cytotoxic venom which causes massive tissue damage and swelling, loss of limbs and organ failure can occur in severe cases which are not treated. Puff Adders are responsible for a large number of snake bites and are a species of medical concern. In South Africa anti venom for this snake is easily available, this is not the case in most African countries. One of the most recognisable African viper is the Gaboon Viper with its unique pattern and colouration which evolved to hide the snake amongst the leaf litter of its forest habit. There are two species of Gaboon Viper the Eastern Gaboon Viper and the Western Gaboon Viper, these were once subspecies of one another but are now recognized as two separate species. The Gaboon Viper has the longest fangs of any venomous snake with fangs reaching 5cm in length. Bites from Gaboon Vipers are rare due to their limited range and shy nature. Venom of this species of viper is cytotoxic with cardio toxins also present in the venom. A bite from a Gaboon Viper is a serious medical emergency due to the potency of the venom and the large quantity of venom that can be delivered in a bite. Anti Venom is available that works for both species of Gaboon Vipers. Albino West African Gaboon Vipers were born in South Africa recently. Rhinoceros Vipers can be found in West Africa and the Congo and like the Gaboon Viper have amazing camouflage colouration, with a cluster of scales on its nose which resemble a rhinos horn giving it its common name. Rhino Vipers sometimes hybridize with West African Gaboon Vipers these are known as ” Gabinos”. Rhino Vipers have a potent cytotoxic venom but little is known about it as bites are rare and badly documented. There is no specific anti venom for this snake however the polyvalent anti venom produced in South Africa has been used on bites from Rhino Vipers with good success. Another large Bitis species is the Ethiopian Mountain Adder this adder is rarely seen in captivity in both zoos and private collections and fetches a very high price. This adder resembles a Puff Adder in general body form but has much busier patterning. The effects of bites from Ethiopian Mountain Adders is poorly studied but its effects should follow the standard cytotoxic symptoms as the other large Bitis species and a bite would result in a medical emergency. There is no anti venom available for this snake.