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Gaboon Viper

If not the most superlative venomous snake in Africa, the gaboon viper is without a doubt the most magnificent “viper” on the continent. Also known as the Gabon viper this snake is venomous, but usually docile. There are two subspecies of this snake living in Africa, the East African (characterized by small horns on the nose), and the “rhinoceros” West African species with very distinct large horns on the nose. The gaboon is the heaviest venomous snake in Africa, weighing up to 18lbs, and reaching 7’ in length regularly.  Even though these snakes are immense in size their markings  simulate natural leaf litter, rendering them all but invisible on the forest floor.

If this viper is startled or threatened they may coil up, however in most cases the gaboon is found moving in a straight line. This is known as rectilinear movement in snakes. If startled more often than not the snake will just freeze in place and count on its markings to keep it hidden. However if the gaboon is tread on they will strike, while pound for pound the venom of the gaboon has a relatively low toxicity, any bite should be treated as a medical emergency. Often the bites lead to abrupt hypotension and subsequent cardiac damage, a bite from a gaboon can without a doubt be lethal if not treated

The gaboon is a nocturnal species in most cases, preferring to sleep through the heat of the day and venture out in darkness to do its hunting. Bearing live young, the gaboon can have up to 60 young at one time, although the average brood is much fewer numbering from 15-20 young. The newborns are able to make their own way in the world from day one. Within 5-7 days the young will begin searching for their first meal. The young are venomous from birth; they also have fully developed fangs and as such should be treated with as much caution as the adults.

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