Do you want to learn about the types of snakes found in the Congo?
If so, you have come to the right place. In the article below, I have listed the MOST COMMON snakes you can expect to see. Unfortunately, there are so many snakes that live in the Congo that it would be impossible to list each one. 🙂
You’ll see that the snakes in the Congo are very different from each other. They range from venomous species to snakes that use constriction to immobilize their prey. In addition, certain snakes are common to find living around people. For each species, you will find out how to identify that snake correctly, along with pictures, interesting facts, and RANGE MAPS!
9 types of snakes in the Congo:
#1. Puff Adder
- Bitis arietans
Also known as the African Puff Adder and Common Puff Adder
- Adults are 100-150 cm (39-59 in) long.
- They are commonly gray to dusty brown, with yellow chevrons on their backs.
- There are two dark bands on the head, one on the crown and one between the eyes.
- Male Puff Adders are usually larger than females.
Puff Adders are one of the most dangerous snakes in the Congo.
This ill-tempered native snake roams savannas, grasslands, and – to the great misfortune of inhabitants – densely populated areas. The Puff Adder gets its name from how it inflates itself when threatened. Instead of moving away, it will hiss a warning to intruders before inflating and striking.
Its distinctive chevron pattern in yellow, white, and brown colors allows the Puff Adder to blend into its surroundings. This camouflage is particularly useful for its lifestyle as an ambush predator. Be careful where you wander because this highly-venomous, fast-striking snake seems to come out of nowhere.
The Puff Adder’s venom contains a cytotoxin that can kill a healthy adult human within a day. Their potent venom and tendency to loiter around footpaths make this snake one to avoid. Watch your step!
#2. Red-lipped Snake
- Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia
Also known as Common Herald Snake, White-lipped Herald Snake, Savanna White-lipped Snake, Black-templed Cat Snake
- This snake can grow to 70-100 cm (28-39 in) long.
- Coloration is usually olive green or gray on the back, sometimes speckled white. Its head is notably black.
- True to its name, it has a bright red (sometimes orange or yellow) upper lip most prominently displayed when it feels threatened.
- The head is broad and triangular, while the tail is short.
You’ll find Red-lipped Snakes near marshlands, bogs, and lowland forests in the Congo.
They also gravitate towards the suburbs, so you might bump into one in your backyard after an evening rain.
Most active during the night, these land snakes prey on amphibians such as toads and frogs. Their venom is mild, effective only on their chosen prey, and harmless to humans. They also have a mild and shy demeanor.
Don’t test your luck, though. Red-lipped snakes have a trigger-happy temper when provoked. So even though its venom isn’t dangerous, its bite is still painful!
Interestingly, the Red-lipped Snake got its other common name, the Herald Snake, from a newspaper story. It was first mentioned in the Eastern Cape’s Herald newspaper!
#3. Gaboon Viper
- Bitis gabonica
Also known as Gaboon Adder, Forest Puff Adder, Butterfly Adder, Whisper, Swampjack
- Their typical size is 80–205 cm (31-81 in) long.
- Females are heavy and stout, while males have longer tails in proportion to their body length.
- You’ll see faded, rectangular blotches down the snake’s back, with yellowish hourglass-shaped marks along the gaps.
The Gaboon Viper boasts the longest fangs of any snake in the Congo!
Incredibly, they can grow up to 6 cm (2.3 in) long. This is one snake you definitely want to steer clear of!
Interestingly, its fangs aren’t the only unusual thing about this species. It also has the highest venom yield of any snake worldwide because of its hunting style. Unlike most vipers, it doesn’t release once it engages in a bite, injecting massive amounts of venom into its prey.
Watch your step because this nocturnal viper has near-perfect camouflage. It’s practically invisible amid fallen leaves on the forest floor and can remain motionless for hours hunting small birds and mammals.
The Gaboon Viper’s venom can be fatal in large doses or cause severe necrosis in the bite area. Fortunately, bite incidents are rare. These snakes are normally non-aggressive, sluggish, and are only encountered in dense rainforests.
#4. Central African Rock Python
- Python sebae
Also known as Northern African Rock Python
- Adults reach impressive lengths of 350-750 cm (138-295 in).
- It has two noticeable lines from the nose to the back of the head.
- Striped blotches decorate the body, colored olive, brown, or yellow.
- There is a distinct yellow inverted “V” marking under the eyes.
The Central African Rock Python is the longest snake in the Congo!
Found near bodies of water, this heavyweight python enjoys environments such as forests, savannas, swamps, and semi-deserts.
Central African Rock Pythons may be non-venomous, but don’t let that give you a false sense of security. This species is strong enough to kill a human with its powerful constriction. Additionally, they routinely swallow antelopes, monkeys, and monitor lizards whole.
Unlike most snakes, Central African Rock Pythons are protective mothers. They fiercely guard their nest after laying eggs, protecting their young from predators and lashing out at unsuspecting passersby. They’re even known to be territorial of a nest after the eggs have hatched!
#5. Rhinoceros Viper
- Bitis nasicornis
Also known as Butterfly Viper, Rhinoceros Horned Viper, River Jack, Horned Puff Adder
- Adults grow to 60-120 cm (24-47 in).
- You can easily identify this viper by its striking geometric markings in shades of blue, green, yellow, and black. These patterns can be oblong or diamond in shape.
- The colors appear duller after shedding its skin, allowing silt to cover the rough scales.
The Rhinoceros Viper is named for its elongated scales on top of its nose, which resemble rhinoceros horns. It prefers forested and marshy areas and is mostly terrestrial. However, it’s also excellent at climbing trees and swimming in shallow bodies of water.
If patience is your virtue, then you might appreciate this ambush predator. Most of the Rhinoceros Viper’s life is spent lying motionless, waiting for prey to pass by. It feeds on small mammals in forests or amphibians and fish in wetlands.
This snake’s venom is incredibly potent and lethal to humans. The poison attacks cell tissue and blood vessels, leading to internal bleeding. Luckily, the Rhinoceros Viper has a calm disposition and you will be warned with a prolonged hiss if you come close, which means you NEED to back away slowly.
#6. Olive Whip Snake
- Psammophis mossambicus
Also known as Olive Grass Snake, Olive Sand Snake
- Adults are 100-180 cm long (39-71 in) on average.
- It’s mostly olive-brown, but some specimens are black.
- There are dark-edged scales along the neck and body. The underside is yellow.
This snake in the Congo is a common resident of grasslands and swamplands.
You might find the Olive Whip Snake prowling near water sources during the day, so keep a keen eye out! Be alert around trees and shrubs, too, because it’s an adept climber.
The Olive Grass Snake is not nearly as venomous as the Black Mamba, but it often gets mistaken for one. This is due to its size and tendency to lift its forebody off the ground to an impressive height. Its food sources are also similar to the Black Mamba: lizards, rodents, frogs, and fellow venomous snakes.
Despite its weight, the Olive Grass Snake moves incredibly fast. And while it prefers a speedy retreat when sensing danger, it may choose to lunge and bite. Fortunately, its venom is mild for humans.
#7. Blanding’s Tree Snake
- Toxicodryas blandingii
Also known as Blanding’s Cat Snake, Black and Yellow Tree Snake, Brown Tree Snake
- These are thick-bodied snakes with slender tails, measuring 160-279 cm (63-110 in) long.
- Females and subadults are brown and spotted, while males are black and yellow.
- They have short, broad heads distinct from their narrow necks.
- Vertical slits punctuate their large, dark eyes.
The Blanding’s Tree Snake makes its home in rainforests and wooded savannas south of the Sahara desert. As an exceptionally talented climber, it can be found up to 30 meters (98 feet) off the ground in the trees.
This rear-fanged snake hunts by moving slowly across intertwining branches to inspect the cracks and hollows of trunks. They have an appetite for rodents, lizards, chameleons, and bird eggs.
You might chance upon it in parks and gardens searching for prey. Occasionally, this snake wanders inside buildings to hunt roosting bats. It inflates its body and opens its mouth wide as a warning before striking. While Blanding’s Tree Snakes are venomous, they don’t pose a significant threat to humans.
#8. Emerald Snake
- Hapsidophrys smaragdinus
Also known as Emerald Tree Snake
- These snakes are 76-122 cm (30-48 in).
- Their coloring is emerald green, with some aqua blue scales.
- The short head is strongly arched between the eyes.
As an arboreal species, the Emerald Snake in the Congo spends most of its life climbing, hunting, and traveling from tree to tree. Its deep green camouflage and slender vine-like appearance make it nearly invisible among vines and foliage! Consequently, you’ll have to look hard if you want to catch it in action.
Emerald Snakes have a particularly interesting defense mechanism that starts with inflating the skin of its neck. Once inflated, a pattern of black skin, light blue spots, and green scales are revealed, startling and confusing the predator. This display gives the Emerald Snake a chance to retreat into the tangle of leaves and branches quickly.
Emerald Snakes are non-venomous and non-aggressive, but their bites may cause rashes and itchiness. Because of their docile nature and bright coloring, they are sometimes sold as pets, living 10-15 years in captivity.
#9. Forest Cobra
- Naja melanoleuca
Also known as Central African Forest Cobra, Black Cobra, Black and White-lipped Cobra
- A. Morph #1 (for forests): Glossy black body with broad cross-bars and blotches. There are black and white bars on the lips. The underside is white.
- B. Morph #2 (for savannas): The body has black and yellow bands with a black tail. The head, lips, and throat are yellow.
- C. Morph #3 (for coastal plains): Black body fades to brown towards the tail. The belly is creamy yellow and heavily speckled. Some specimens are completely black.
If you want to avoid this snake in the Congo, don’t go peeking around holes in the ground!
This DANGEROUS venomous species likes to nest in burrows. The Forest Cobra is the largest cobra species in the world, attaining lengths of 140-320 cm (55-126 in), and prefers living in wet woods. However, it adapts easily to drier environments as long as there’s access to a body of water.
These snakes eat a wide variety of food. Being semi-aquatic, they sometimes enjoy hunting for fish and amphibians. But they also spend time hunting rodents, lizards, and other snakes on land. However, tree-dwellers aren’t safe either. The Forest cobra will nimbly climb trees to eat insects and bird eggs.
A bite from a Forest Cobra delivers large quantities of highly potent venom, capable of killing a human within 30 minutes. Therefore, extreme caution is advised in the presence of this highly aggressive and dangerous snake.
Do you need more help identifying a snake you saw in Africa?
If so, check out this field guide, which is full of great information!
Learn more about animals found in the Congo in these ID Guides:
- 19 Amazing ANIMALS to see in Congo! (ID guide w/ pics)
Which of these snakes have you seen before in the Congo?
Leave a COMMENT below!