Do you want to learn about the types of snakes found in Ethiopia?

Types of snakes in Ethiopia

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 Ethiopia that it would be impossible to list each one. 🙂

 

You’ll see that the snakes in Ethiopia 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!

 

Here are 7 types of snakes that live in Ethiopia:

 


#1. Puff Adder

  • Bitis arietans

Also known as the African Puff Adder and Common Puff Adder

Common Ethiopia snakes

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Ethiopia.

 

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. Boomslang

  • Dispholidus typus

Also known as Common African Tree Snake, Kivu Boomslang, and Kivu Large Green Tree Snake

Common snakes found in Ethiopia

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are usually 100-160 cm (39-63 in) long.
  • Coloration varies greatly, allowing these snakes to camouflage in different terrains.
  • Generally, males are light green, scaled with black and blue, and females are brown.
  • Boomslangs have an egg-shaped head and notably large eyes.

 

This slender snake in Ethiopia makes its home in low-lying trees.

In fact, its common name Boomslang means “tree snake” in Afrikaans and Dutch. Be careful within this species’ range because the next vine you pull might become a deadly encounter!

This snake’s venom is highly potent, causing bleeding and death for humans, even in small doses. However, compared to front-fanged snakes, which release large amounts of venom at once, rear-fanged snakes like the Boomslang inject small amounts of venom in quick succession.

 

When confronted, the Boomslang will freeze and then swing its head from side to side before quickly attacking. Fortunately, Boomslangs won’t attack humans except as a last resort. If you are bitten, seek immediate treatment. Victims might get a false sense of safety because the venom is slow-acting, but many people have died from internal bleeding hours later.

 


#3. Red-lipped Snake

  • Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia

Also known as Common Herald Snake, White-lipped Herald Snake, Savanna White-lipped Snake, Black-templed Cat Snake

Snakes of Ethiopia

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Ethiopia.

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!

 


#4. Egyptian Cobra

  • Naja haje

Also known as the Brown Cobra

Types of snakes in Ethiopia

Identifying Characteristics:

  • On average, these snakes are 140-259 cm (55-102 in) long.
  • The easiest way to recognize the Egyptian Cobra is through its broad, flattened head distinct from its long, ribbed neck, which expands to form a hood when it feels threatened.
  • Coloration varies geographically, but the most common is brown. However, some snakes are red, gray, or black.

 

The Egyptian Cobra is as deadly as it is famous. It can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where Pharaohs used it to symbolize their power to take life. Today, you’ll find this snake in Ethiopia swimming in shallow waters or resting in abandoned animal burrows.

The venom of the Egyptian Cobra has neurotoxins and cytotoxins that assault the nervous system. Respiratory failure and death may happen in the worst-case scenario. The venom is slow-acting, so seek treatment if you get bitten, even if you don’t immediately show symptoms.

 

Foraging for food sometimes brings the Egyptian Cobra to human settlements. However, it will favor escaping if confronted. Its favorite meals are toads, but it will also go for lizards, birds, and other snakes.

 


#5. Central African Rock Python

  • Python sebae

Also known as Northern African Rock Python

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 Ethiopia!

 

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!

 


#6. Brown House Snake

  • Boaedon fuliginosus

Also known as the Common African House Snake, Sooty House Snake, Black House Snake, Olive House Snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults average a length of 60-150 cm (24-59 in).
  • Juveniles are solid black, while adults are dark brown or gray with faint stripes and spots.
  • The scales are smooth and iridescent, appearing white when they reflect light.
  • Its body is thinner at the sides.

 

The Brown House Snake is one of the most common snakes in Ethiopia.

Its name hints at its habit of visiting homes, which is where most people see this species. However, this nocturnal snake can also thrive in woodlands, savannas, scrublands, and grasslands.

Brown House Snakes seek small mammals and reptiles as a food source. They put their prey into a stranglehold and swallow them whole without chewing. They particularly enjoy mice, so if you’re dealing with an infestation, these snakes might be nearby.

 

Luckily, the Brown House Snake is non-venomous and timid. It’s likely to flee or curl up tightly into a corner if threatened.

 


#7. Brown Forest Cobra

  • Naja subfulva

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 200-275 cm (79-108 in) long on average.
  • They are mostly brownish yellow on the head, darkening to pitch black on the tail. There are light-colored spots all over the body.
  • Other notable characteristics are black stripes under the eyes and a band of small black dots near the throat.

 

Brown Forest Cobras are mostly limited to savanna woodlands in Ethiopia. This highly alert and intelligent cobra leaves its lair when the sun is out. If it’s not busy basking in the heat, it goes hunting for its usual lunch: birds and small mammals.

Thankfully, snakebite incidents are rare because Brown Forest Cobras live far away from human civilization. Even if you encounter them, their first instinct is to flee. Nonetheless, stay back as their venom can cause tissue damage, difficulty breathing, and even death if left untreated.

 


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 Africa in these ID Guides:


Which of these snakes have you seen before in Ethiopia?

 

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