Do you want to learn about the types of snakes found in the Democratic Republic of 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 DRC that it would be impossible to list each one. 🙂
You’ll see that the snakes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly known as Zaire) 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 15 types of snakes that live in the Democratic Republic of 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 DRC.
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!
- Dispholidus typus
Also known as Common African Tree Snake, Kivu Boomslang, and Kivu Large Green Tree Snake
- 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 the Democratic Republic of the Congo 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. Black Mamba
- Dendroaspis polylepis
- Adults are 200-450 cm (79-177 in).
- Its coloring is usually brown, olive green, or yellow. Black specimens with purplish scales are very rare.
- Juveniles are usually gray or green, but they darken with age.
In small woodlands and rocky outcrops of the DRC lurks what many consider the world’s deadliest snake. The Black Mamba is named after the inky coloring of the inside of its mouth, something you should hope never to see! It likes to nest in burrows, so stay alert around suspicious holes.
The fatally potent venom of the Black Mamba targets the nervous system and the heart. Difficulty breathing can occur within 10 minutes. If you get bitten, it’s a race against time, so get medical attention immediately!
In addition to their highly toxic venom, Black Mambas are terrifyingly fast. They can move 16 kph (10 mph) for short distances and even lunge at prey or attackers.
Contrary to popular belief, these snakes are rather shy and will choose to escape when given a chance. They raise their heads, spread their cobra-like neck hoods, and hiss loudly as a warning to would-be attackers. So the best thing to do if you encounter the Black Mamba is to slowly back away, making sure it doesn’t feel cornered.
#4. 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 Democratic Republic of 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!
#5. Egyptian Cobra
- Naja haje
Also known as the Brown Cobra
- 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 the DRC 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.
#6. 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 Democratic Republic of 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.
#7. 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 DRC!
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!
#8. 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.
#9. 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 Democratic Republic of 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.
#10. 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 DRC 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.
#11. 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 Democratic Republic of 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.
#12. Brown House Snake
- Boaedon fuliginosus
Also known as the Common African House Snake, Sooty House Snake, Black House Snake, Olive House Snake
- 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 the DRC.
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.
#13. Brown Forest Cobra
- Naja subfulva
- 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 the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 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.
#14. Black-necked Spitting Cobra
- Naja nigricollis
- A. Morph #1: Black or gray body with pink bars on the broad neck and a reddish belly.
- B. Morph #2: Light brown or yellow body with no neck bands.
- C. Morph #3: White and black stripes on the body or solid white with dark eyes.
- Average length is 1-2 m (4-7 ft).
Look for these snakes in the DRC near streams and rivers in savannas.
Black-necked Spitting Cobras are highly adaptable and can be active day or night. This far-ranging snake’s prey includes small vertebrates on the ground or bird eggs in trees.
When confronting possible threats, Black-necked Spitting Cobras rise from the ground and spread their impressive neck hoods. Then, true to their name, they will spit venom to blind their aggressors. Keep your eyes covered because these cobras have amazing aim and can hit their target up to seven meters away!
Black-necked Spitting Cobra bites can cause symptoms such as swelling, blistering, extreme pain, and loss of limb function. In worst-case scenarios, death may occur due to paralysis of the diaphragm.
#15. Common Slug-Eater
- Duberria lutrix
- Adults grow to only about 40 cm (16 in).
- Typically, they have black-striped green or brown backs, white and yellow bellies, and gray sides.
Common Slug-Eaters are non-venomous snakes endemic to the damp grasslands of Southern the Democratic Republic of the Congo. True to their name, they feed on a specialized diet of snails and slugs. They have a calm demeanor, and they pose no danger to humans.
This snake is known to hunt its prey down by following slime trails. Once it locates a meal, it quickly swallows the soft body before the snail or slug can secrete foul, defensive mucus. In the case of snails, Common Slug-eaters are known to bash the hard shell against a rock to break it open.
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 Democratic Republic of the Congo in these ID Guides:
Which of these snakes have you seen before in the Democratic Republic of the Congo?
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