33 Types of VENOMOUS Snakes in Africa! (2024)

Do you want to learn about the types of venomous snakes in Africa?

If so, you have come to the right place. In the article below, I have listed the MOST COMMON venomous snakes you can expect to see. If I missed any, please leave a Comment at the bottom of the page. 🙂

You’ll see that the venomous snakes in Africa are very different from each other. They have different sizes, habitats, and even different types of venom. 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!

Venomous Snakes that Live in Africa:

#1. Egyptian Cobra

  • Naja haje

Also known as the Brown Cobra.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults 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 Africa 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 Egyptian Cobras near human settlements. However, it will favor escaping if confronted. Its favorite meals are toads, but it will also go for lizards, birds, and snakes.

#2. Puff Adder

  • Bitis arietans

Also known as the African Puff Adder and Common Puff Adder.

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 venomous snakes in Africa.

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 yellow, white, and brown chevron pattern 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 poison and tendency to loiter around footpaths make this snake one to avoid. Watch your step!

#3. Jameson’s Mamba

  • Dendroaspis jamesoni

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 1.2-2.1 m (4-7 ft) long.
  • Their coloring is dull green mottled with black and yellow, and they have a cream underside.

Jameson’s Mambas are highly venomous snakes that primarily inhabit rainforests, woodlands, and savanna. They also use mango and nut plantations, parks, and farmlands and are occasionally found around buildings.

If you want to see this venomous snake in Africa, you may have to spend a long time searching. This shy species is primarily arboreal and spends most of its days in the dense vegetation of trees, hunting birds, lizards, bats, and small mammals. However, if you’re lucky (or unlucky), you may spot one on the ground as they bask or move between trees.

Jameson’s Mambas have a highly potent neurotoxic venom. Unfortunately, they are sometimes confused with common, harmless green snakes, which can be a deadly mistake. Without immediate treatment, this snake’s bite can kill a human within four hours!

Thankfully, they are generally not aggressive, and bites are rare. If confronted, their first instinct is to flee. They may also put on a threat display and flatten their neck to mimic a cobra.

#4. Spotted Night Adder

  • Causus maculatus

Also known as Forest Rhombic Night Adders or West African Night Adders.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 30-71 cm (12-28 in) long.
  • They are small, thick, and have broad, rounded snouts.
  • Their coloring is brownish, but they may also be gray, olive, or light green with dark brown or black patches down their back.

You can find these venomous snakes in Africa in nearly every habitat!

They occupy forests, savanna, and semi-desert. Across this wide range of habitats, we also see a range of coloration. Some individuals may have different patterns, and especially in arid regions, they may have no pattern at all.

Despite the name, Spotted Night Adders are active during the day and at night. They move across the landscape slowly but can strike with incredible speed. Even though they’re a terrestrial or ground-dwelling species, they will occasionally pursue a frog or toad into a shrub.

While venomous, Spotted Night Adders don’t pose a serious risk to humans. Bites generally result in relatively mild symptoms, including pain, swelling, and mild fever. Typically the symptoms disappear within three days, but you should still see a doctor if bitten.

#5. Boomslang

  • Dispholidus typus

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

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 venomous snake makes its home in low-lying trees in Africa.

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.

#6. Gaboon Viper

  • Bitis gabonica

Also known as Gaboon Adder, Forest Puff Adder, Butterfly Adder, Whisper, Swampjack

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 venomous snake in Africa!

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. Rhombic Night Adder

  • Causus rhombeatus

Also known as Demon Night Adders, Cape Night Adders, African Night Adders, and Cape Vipers.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 60-94 cm (24-37 in) long.
  • Their base color is usually brown but may also be pinkish-brown, grayish-brown, or olive green. They have 20 to 30 dark rhombic blotches with pale edges along their backs.
  • They have a blunt snout and a characteristic dark V-shaped mark on their heads.

Despite being venomous, Rhombic Night Adders are considered docile. That said, they will put up an impressive defense when threatened. Most of their defensive display is designed to make them look like cobras.

For example, they coil up and inflate their bodies, flattening the neck area like a hood. They may move forward with their tongue extended like a cobra as well.

It’s a good idea to heed their warnings! If their defense doesn’t work, they’ll strike repeatedly and aggressively, sometimes so violently that it lifts their entire body off the ground.

Thankfully, bites from Rhombic Night Adders are less severe than other venomous snakes in Africa. Their bites typically cause pain, minor swelling, and minimal necrosis. The symptoms appear to clear in most adults in two to three days, but you should still see a doctor to be safe.

#8. Black Mamba

  • Dendroaspis polylepis

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 lurks what many consider the deadliest venomous snake in Africa, if not the world. 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 to warn 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.

#9. 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.
  • The average length is 1-2 m (3-7 ft).

Look for these venomous snakes in Africa near streams and rivers.

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 7 m (23 ft) 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.

Although it’s a different variety of spitting cobra, the video below shows the power of a spitting strike. 

YouTube video

#10. 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 venomous snake in Africa, don’t go peeking around holes in the ground!

This DANGEROUS venomous species likes to nest in burrows. The Forest Cobra is HUGE, 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.

#11. Cape Coral Snake

  • Aspidelaps lubricus

Also known as Coral Shield Cobras and Cape Coral Cobras.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 45-76 cm (18-30 in) long.
  • They have a narrow neck hood and a short head.
  • Their coloring is usually red-orange to yellow with thick black rings down the length of their bodies.

Look for this venomous snake in Africa in dry habitats.

You’re most likely to find them in arid deserts and other sandy or rocky ecosystems with little vegetation besides scattered shrubs.

In these intense climates, Cape Coral Snakes are nocturnal out of necessity. Most of their activity and hunting occurs after the sun has gone down. During the day, they stay cool in the shelter of burrows, tunnels, and rocks. They prefer cooler nights and move around less during the heat of summer.

When they leave the burrow in the evening, the hunt is on. Cape Coral Snakes rely on their sense of smell and taste rather than sight. Typically, they go for diurnal prey that’s asleep, which makes an easy target. Lizards, legless skinks, small rodents, and occasionally other snakes are all on the menu. Before feeding, they strike their prey and inject venom to incapacitate it.

When threatened, Cape Coral Snakes flatten their neck like a cobra, hiss at their attacker, and strike repeatedly. Unfortunately, fatalities from their bites have been recorded! It’s thought that their neurotoxic venom causes respiratory failure.

#12. Rhinoceros Viper

  • Bitis nasicornis

Also known as Butterfly Viper, Rhinoceros Horned Viper, River Jack, Horned Puff Adder

Identifying Characteristics:

  • 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 the 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.

#13. Twig Snake

  • Thelotornis capensis

Also known as Cape Twig Snake, Savanna Vine Snake, Southern Bird Snake, Cape Twig Snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • These are slender snakes with very long tails, measuring 100-168 cm (39-66 in) in total length.
  • Look for a flattened bluish-green head, keyhole-shaped pupils, large black fangs, and a reddish-black tongue.
  • Body coloration is brown or gray with blotches.

As the name suggests, you might mistake this venomous snake in Africa for a twig!

Twig Snakes hang perfectly still on branches of low shrubs, waiting for passing chameleons, frogs, and birds. They are patient predators and can maintain this posture for hours. When disturbed, they inflate their necks like a balloon as a scare tactic.

Take great care when trekking through coastal forests and woodlands. Its coloration allows it to blend in with the bark and branches of trees. Although it’s unassuming, the Twig Snake is venomous and very dangerous.

The Twig Snake’s venom is a slow-acting poison that can cause profuse bleeding and hemorrhage. One German herpetologist, Robert Mertens, died 18 days after being bitten by his pet Twig Snake. So, get quick medical treatment for a bite even if you don’t have immediate symptoms.

#14. Eastern Green Mamba

  • Dendroaspis angusticeps

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 1.8 – 2m (6 – 6.5 ft) long.
  • They have long, slender bodies, narrow, coffin-shaped heads, and short, fixed fangs.
  • They have smooth, bright-green scales that overlay darker skin. This contrast gives them the appearance of paving stones.

Despite their showy appearance, these venomous snakes are a shy, elusive species in Africa.

Their intense green coloring allows them to blend in with their leafy habitat seamlessly. Eastern Green Mambas are adept climbers and spend most of their time in dense rainforests, coastal bush, and montane forests. Unlike their well-known and feared relative, the Black Mamba, you’re unlikely ever to spot Eastern Green Mambas in open areas.

These venomous snakes in Africa are also mostly sedentary. One study found that they only move about 5.5 m (18 ft) per day! Eastern Green Mambas are most active during the day and spend their nights sleeping on branches or in tree trunk hollows. During the day, they hunt by ambushing birds, rodents, and reptiles that cross their paths.

Eastern Green Mambas are the least venomous of the three green mambas and are considered less dangerous than the Black Mamba. Regardless, these beautiful snakes are still highly venomous, and you should treat them with respect and caution.

If they feel cornered or are grabbed, they will bite repeatedly. A bite from an Eastern Green Mamba can cause pain, swelling, gangrene, necrosis, dizziness, nausea, convulsions, irregular heartbeat, and other severe symptoms. If you’re bitten, seek medical help right away.

#15. Forest Night Adder

  • Causus lichtensteinii

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 30-71 cm (12-28 in) long.
  • They have a narrow head, blunt snout, and weakly-keeled scales with a velvety texture.
  • They’re typically olive or greenish, with backward-pointing chevrons running down their back.

You’re most likely to find these venomous snakes in Africa in swampy areas or around bodies of water. They spend their days hunting insects, frogs, toads, and other amphibians. A Forest Night Adder’s diet changes as it grows. They select prey relative to their size; larger snakes hunt larger prey and may give up smaller prey items like insects entirely.

Unlike other snakes in the rainforest, Forest Night Adders are terrestrial and spend most of their time on the ground. However, they don’t mind getting into the water when necessary. These snakes are excellent swimmers that have even colonized some of the islands in Lake Victoria.

When threatened, Forest Night Adders can put on an intimidating display despite their small size. They puff up their bodies and make loud hissing noises to ward off any would-be attackers. If they feel cornered, they may strike with surprising speed.

#16. Snouted Night Adder

  • Causus defilippii

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 20-50 cm (8 to 20 in) long.
  • They have a prominent, upturned snout and a V-shaped marking on their heads.
  • Their coloring is light brown, pinkish brown, gray, or greenish-gray with dark crescent-shaped markings down their backs.

You can find Snouted Night Adders in savannas, coastal thickets, and forests. While you may occasionally spot them on dry, rocky hillsides, their favorite places are close to wet areas where their prey is abundant.

These interesting little snakes are specially adapted to feed on frogs and toads! Snouted Night Adders have a pointed, upturned snout that allows them to dig toads and frogs from their hiding places. They’re also surprisingly athletic and often climb into low branches or take to the water and swim in pursuit of prey.

They are rather slow-moving snakes but are capable of striking quickly if provoked. While bites are rare, you should still use caution. Snouted Night Adder venom causes rapid swelling, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and intense pain. Typically the symptoms subside in about three days, but you should see a doctor right away.

#17. Anchieta’s Cobra

  • Naja anchietae

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 1-2.2 m (3-7.5 ft) long.
  • They have a prominent neck hood, a blue-black throat band, and a rounded snout.
  • Their coloring is orange-brown to purple-brown on the back and yellow below with dark brown blotches.

You’ll likely want to avoid this highly venomous snake in Africa!

Anchieta’s Cobras are large and intimidating. They live in savanna habitats known as bushveld, areas with predominately thorny, shrubby vegetation. However, they occasionally venture into areas of human settlement and shelter beneath houses, along rivers, and near wetlands.

Even though they’re nocturnal, you may spot one in the sun during the day. They usually bask near sheltered spots, including old termite mounds, hollow trees, or dense shrubs or vegetation. This allows them a quick retreat if they sense danger.

While they typically flee if given a chance, Anchieta’s Cobras can put on a frightening display when they feel threatened. They lift the front portion of their body off the ground and spread their hood, which can measure 10-13 cm (4-5 in) wide! Occasionally, they play dead, but not as often as other species.

Anchieta’s Cobras strike as a last resort, and bites are rare but can be deadly. Their venom contains potent neurotoxic and cardiotoxic compounds. Due to their size, these snakes also tend to inject large amounts of venom. Bites may cause blistering, tissue damage, and fatalities. If you spot one of these snakes in the wild, leave it alone and give it plenty of space!

#18. Red Spitting Cobra

  • Naja pallida

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 0.75-1.5 m (2.5-5 ft) long.
  • They have completely black eyes, a neck hood, and teardrop markings under the eyes.
  • Their coloring is typically bright salmon-red with a broad, dark throat band.

They may not be considered deadly, but you’ll still want to look out for these venomous snakes in Africa! Red Spitting Cobras prefer warm lowland areas such as savannas and semi-deserts. However, they occur across a large and diverse range and occasionally venture into wetlands and even populated areas. Unfortunately, they often enter houses seeking prey.

Unlike many snakes that use an ambush hunting technique, Red Spitting Cobras actively hunt and chase down prey. They can accurately spit venom from a range of about 2.5 m (8 ft) to blind their target. Before striking, these cobras will also make erratic movements to disorient their victim. Once they’ve caught something, they swallow it whole.

Their ability to spit venom is an incredibly effective defense mechanism, meaning these cobras have no true predators. If threatened, Red Spitting Cobras stand up tall, hiss, spread their hood, and spit at an attacker up to 40 times in two minutes! Their venom contains cytotoxins and neurotoxins, which will damage the eyes and cause blindness if left untreated, so it’s best to give these snakes plenty of space!

If you get within range, Red Spitting Cobras will strike without hesitation. Victims should seek medical treatment immediately and often require anti-venom. A bite from a Red Spitting Cobra can cause pain, swelling, and tissue damage.

#19. Horned Adder

  • Bitis caudalis

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 30-50 cm (12-20 in) long.
  • They have short, stout bodies, keeled scales, and large horn-like scales over each eye.
  • Their coloring varies over their range. They may be gray, brown, yellow, or reddish-orange, with darker blotches down their backs.

You can find Horned Adders in sparsely vegetated and semiarid scrub, but they are tough to spot! The coloring of these unusual snakes typically matches the sand in their area, giving them perfect camouflage. Interestingly, males are more brightly colored than females, while females are typically larger than males.

Horned Adders live in areas with brutally hot daytime temperatures, so they seek shelter during the day. They take advantage of their incredible camouflage and bury themselves in loose sand or rest in the shade of a rock or bush. Then, at dusk, as temperatures drop, they come out to hunt, preying on lizards, geckos, small mammals, and birds.

When threatened, the already fierce-looking Horned Adder puts on an intimidating display, puffing up its body and hissing. If approached, they will strike repeatedly and have cytotoxic venom, which causes swelling and pain. Thankfully the venom is relatively weak, and anti-venom isn’t typically required.

#20. Mozambique Spitting Cobra

  • Naja mossambica

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 91-106 cm (36-42 in) long.
  • Their back may be slate to blue, olive, or tawny black, while their underside is salmon-pink to purple-yellow with black bars on their throats.
  • They have hoods on their necks, which they expand when threatened.

You’ll have to stay up late to find these venomous snakes in Africa.

Mozambique Spitting Cobras are nocturnal and terrestrial, hunting at night and spending most of their days hidden away in crevices, holes, and termite hills. But if you run into one, watch out! Mozambique Spitting Cobras are considered one of the most dangerous species in Africa.

Mozambique Cobras are nervous and quick to attack when they feel threatened. They rear up, lifting up to two-thirds of their body off the ground, spreading their hood, and spitting at their attacker’s eyes. They can spit 1.8-2 m (6-7 ft) with surprising accuracy. If their attacker gets close, they strike with a vicious bite.

YouTube video

Their venom contains both cytotoxins and neurotoxins. If the venom gets into a victim’s eyes, it can cause permanent damage and blindness. In addition, bites cause severe pain, swelling, necrosis, vomiting, respiratory distress, and dizziness. Without immediate medical attention, the symptoms can be deadly.

Mozambique Cobras are incredible predators that feed on birds, amphibians, eggs, small mammals, carrion, and other snakes. Most incredibly, these dangerous cobras will even attack the notorious Black Mamba and have developed an immunity to their venom.

#21. Rhombic Skaapsteker

  • Psammophylax rhombeatus

Also known as the Spotted Skaapsteker.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are typically 45-87 cm (18-34 in) long.
  • Their color may be grayish, yellowish-brown, or olive-brown with rows of dark, rhombus-shaped spots on their back.
  • They have a yellowish underside, large eyes with circular pupils, and the tops of their heads are uniformly brown.

You’ll likely find these venomous snakes in Africa in moist savannas, grasslands, and shrublands.

The second portion of their name, “Skaapsteker,” is an Afrikaans word meaning “sheep-stabber” or “sheep-stinger.” Thankfully for the sheep, the name is a bit misleading. These snakes are known to be fairly gentle and are difficult to provoke into striking.

While they have neurotoxic venom, it’s mild and poses no threat to humans or large animals. Additionally, they have small teeth set very far back in their jaw, making it difficult to bite a large animal.

However, Rhombic Skaaptekers are still dangerous to their prey. They’re fast-moving snakes, and their venom is perfectly suited to incapacitating small prey like frogs, rodents, lizards, birds, and smaller snakes.

While we often classify snakes as oviparous (egg-laying) or ovoviviparous (giving birth to live young in an amniotic sack), these weird snakes fall in between. The females lay up to 30 eggs which are already partially incubated. In another somewhat unique feature, the females guard the eggs rather than leaving them as many snakes do.

#22. Rinkhals

  • Hemachatus haemachatus

Also known as Ringhals or Ring-Necked Cobras.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 90-112 cm (35-44 in) long.
  • They have a characteristic dark belly with light-colored cross-bands on the throat, a hooded neck, and ridged upper scales.
  • Their coloring varies throughout their range, and they may be black or yellowish-orange with dark brown stripes.

This species is one of the most intimidating venomous snakes in Africa!

But despite their dangerous appearance, Rinkhals aren’t especially aggressive. Their first instinct is to retreat into a nearby hole when threatened.

However, they quickly put up a fierce defense if they feel cornered. They raise the upper portion of their body off the ground, spread their neck hood, and then spit venom at their attacker. They try to aim for their attacker’s eyes and can accurately spit up to 3 m (10 ft)!

Venom entering the eyes can cause pain and permanent vision loss. If the snake continues to feel threatened, it will strike its attacker. Though rarely deadly, a bite from this species can cause vomiting, nausea, violent abdominal pain, swelling, bruising, and vertigo. Seek medical help immediately if you’re bitten or spit on!

The Rinkhals’ last line of defense is to put on a fairly convincing show of playing dead. Don’t be fooled! They roll over onto their backs and leave their mouths hanging agape, then try to strike their attacker with the element of surprise.

#23. Sahara Sand Viper

  • Cerastes vipera

Also known as Sahara Hornless Viper, Lesser Cerastes, Common Sand Viper, Egyptian Asp, Cleopatra’s Asp, Avicenna Viper

Identifying Characteristics:

  • These are short snakes, measuring only 20-60 cm (8-24 in) long.
  • Body coloration is light brown to orange-red.
  • Females are considerably larger than males, and the tips of their tails are distinctly black.
  • They have broad, triangular heads when viewed from above.

The Sahara Sand Viper is small, thick-bodied, and highly venomous. Look for this venomous snake in the deserts of Africa.

A nocturnal predator, the Sahara Sand Viper lays patiently under cover of sand with only its eyes and snout uncovered. It can wait for hours in preparation for an ambush. Occasionally, it uses the black tip of its tail to lure unfortunate lizards, rodents, and geckos to their death.

Its venom is not fatal to humans, but be careful, as bites are serious enough to warrant a visit to the hospital. When threatened, the Sahara Sand Viper rubs the sides of its scaled body together, producing a raspy hissing noise. Observe from a distance, as this is an irritable snake!

#24. African Bush Viper

  • Atheris squamigera

Also known as the Variable Bush Viper, Leaf Viper, Green Bush Viper, or Hallowell’s Green Tree Viper.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 50-81 cm (20-32 in) long.
  • They have keeled scales, broad triangular heads, and large eyes.
  • Their coloring is commonly sage green, dark green, pale green, olive, bluish, or dark brown. In rare cases, they may be yellow, gray, or reddish.

If you see this venomous snake in Africa, you will notice it has a rough textured appearance.

It’s due to the keeled scales on their heads and bodies. These scales have a ridge down the center rather than being flat. Reptile experts think that keeled scales have two benefits: they help camouflage the snakes and allow them to grip trees and branches better.

Look for African Bush Vipers in tropical forests with dense vegetation and abundant prey. These masterful hunters spend most of their nights curled around low branches or twigs, waiting to ambush small mammals. Once their prey is in range, these snakes strike with incredible speed. Then they inject their prey with venom from their two hollow, retractable fangs, rendering their victim helpless.

While it isn’t common, African Bush Vipers will occasionally strike humans. Unfortunately, these snakes often remain still in a tree or on the ground, and humans accidentally step on them. A single bite can cause fever, hemorrhaging, and even death. It’s incredibly important to seek medical help immediately!

#25. Ashe’s Spitting Cobra

  • Naja ashei

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 1.3–2.0 m (4.3–6.6 ft) long.
  • They have thick bodies, broad heads, and dark throat bands.
  • Their color varies and may be light brown, mustard, dark brown, or light gray with a pale underside.

As their name suggests, Ashe’s Spitting Cobras can spit venom at their attacker’s eyes. Watch out! They can hit their target from 2 m (6.5 ft) away and will continue spitting for hours if they remain cornered. Their powerful venom can destroy the cornea and cause permanent blindness if not treated immediately.

These dangerous cobras also bite, and their strike contains more venom than most other types of spitting cobras. Their venom contains neurotoxins and cytotoxins known to have a necrotizing effect, killing tissue around the wound. If bitten or spit on, seek medical attention immediately!

While their defensive behavior may earn them a fearsome reputation, Ashe’s Spitting Cobras and other related spitting cobras may be helpful to humans. Their venom contains antimicrobial and antibacterial compounds. Scientists are testing these compounds against bacteria in the hope that they may be helpful against superbugs as more antibiotic-resistant bacterias evolve.

#26. Spotted Harlequin Snake

  • Homoroselaps lacteus

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 30-40 cm (12-16 in) long.
  • Their heads and necks are indistinct from each other, with no real divide.
  • The coloring varies greatly, but they are typically a mixture of black and gray with a bright yellow, orange, or red stripe running from neck to tail.

These colorful little venomous snakes can be hard to locate in Africa! Spotted Harlequins are semi-fossorial, meaning they spend much of their time hidden in termite mounds, under rocks and logs, or beneath old buildings and debris.

They’re a shy species, and when uncovered, Spotted Harlequins typically wriggle violently to escape. Bites are rare but have occurred often enough that we know the symptoms. Their bites cause cytotoxic effects, including headaches, pain, and swelling. However, due to the minimal venom delivered in a bite, they don’t appear to be life-threatening.

While it may not greatly affect humans, Spotted Harlequins use their venom to help subdue prey. They feed on other snakes and lizards, particularly blind snakes and legless skinks.

#27. Western Green Mamba

  • Dendroaspis viridis

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 1.5-2.5 m (5-8 ft) long.
  • They have slender bodies, long tapering tails, and round pupils with yellowish-green irises.
  • Their coloring is bright green, fading to yellow or orange toward the tail, and each scale has a prominent black margin giving the snake a webbed pattern.

Western Green Mambas are beautiful but deadly venomous snakes in Africa!

They prefer to live in forested habitats where their intense coloring acts as camouflage. You might also find them in deforested areas, parklands, and suburbs with sufficient vegetation.

Although active during the day, these snakes can be tough to find. Western Green Mambas spend most of their time gracefully moving along branches in the high forest canopy. They sleep in densely leaved branches and hunt tree-dwelling rodents and birds.

They usually retreat when threatened, but you don’t want to disturb one. Western Green Mambas have extremely potent venom that contains neurotoxins, cardiotoxins, and other poisons. Symptoms include local pain, swelling, necrosis, headaches, dizziness, low blood pressure, and trouble breathing.

Without treatment, severe symptoms can progress rapidly and eventually result in paralysis of the respiratory muscles causing suffocation. Deaths within 30 minutes have been reported.

#28. Snouted Cobra

  • Naja annulifera

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 1.2-2.5 m (4-8 ft) long.
  • They have impressively large hoods.
  • Their varied coloring may be yellowish, grayish-brown, dark brown, or blue-black, sometimes with contrasting bands on their backs.

Snouted Cobras live in moist and dry savannas in Africa. They prefer areas with predominately thorny, shrubby vegetation or open woodland interspersed with openings of long grass. They spend most of their time near a favorite retreat, like an abandoned termite mound. If left undisturbed, they’ll use the same retreat for years.

During the day, they like to bask in the sun near their shelter, and they come out to hunt at dusk. Snouted Cobras actively seek prey and feed on birds, bird eggs, lizards, rodents, toads, and other snakes, especially Puff Adders. Around human dwellings, they’ll often raid chicken houses and can become a nuisance.

While they’re not aggressive, Snouted Cobras will defend themselves. They lift the front portion of their body off the ground, open an impressive neck hood, and hiss. Occasionally, they play dead, but this behavior is rare in this species. However, if further threatened, they will strike.

Snouted Cobras have a potent neurotoxic venom. Bites on humans are often at night on the lower leg. They can cause difficulty breathing, pain, swelling, and blistering. If left untreated, they can result in respiratory failure and death. Seek medical treatment immediately if you are bitten!

#29. Cape Cobra

  • Naja nivea

Also known as Yellow Cobra and Black Spitting Cobra

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Their typical length is between 120-140 cm (47-55 in), but some have been recorded to grow up to 188 cm (74 in).
  • Male Cape Cobras are slightly larger than females.
  • Their colors vary, ranging from bright yellow, dark brown, and reddish black to speckled. 
  • Juveniles have dark bands from the throat to the belly for their first two years.

The Cape Cobra is found along savannas, shrublands, and deserts. Although it’s mostly a terrestrial snake that hunts on land, this venomous species is surprisingly agile near water or atop trees.

Be extra careful if you find yourself within Cape Cobra territory. Among venomous snakes in Africa, it’s considered one of the most dangerous because its venom targets the respiratory and nervous systems. Seek immediate treatment if bitten because victims have been reported to die within an hour. 

Like most snakes, the Cape Cobra prefers to flee than fight. However, it can strike without notice if it feels trapped. Be especially wary during this cobra’s mating period in September and October, when it’s more aggressive than usual.

#30. Moorish Viper

  •  Daboia mauritanica

Also known as Sahara Rock Viper, Atlas Blunt-nosed Viper, Atlas Adder, Mountain Adder

Identifying Characteristics:

  • The Moorish Viper grows 130-240 cm (51-94 in) long.
  • It’s usually gray or brown, but some have been observed to be red or green.
  • Circular spots and pigmented zig-zags appear along the back. 
  • It has a strong, well-built body, but its weight makes it a slow-moving snake. 

Look for the venomous Moorish Viper in Africa in moderately humid woodlands, watering holes, or rocky crevices. It can be difficult to find because it prefers tight spaces. Upon sensing danger, this species coils into itself, flattening its head and hissing loudly to dissuade attackers. 

The Moorish Viper is an ambush predator that hunts during the early evening hours. It strategically positions itself along animal paths and will lie in wait for prey, so use caution when following these trails! It has a taste for lizards, small mammals, and young birds.

Listed as a Near Threatened species by the IUCN, Moorish Vipers are often killed by humans in road encounters or sold by poachers for snake charming exhibitions. Its venom is hemotoxic and will cause excessive bleeding in unlucky victims. Hopefully, not you!

#31. Ashe’s Bush Viper

  • Atheris desaixi
By the United States Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 40-60 cm (16-24 in) long.
  • They have keeled scales, broad, triangular heads, and relatively large eyes set forward in their head.
  • Their coloring is greenish to charcoal, and each scale has a yellow or yellowish-green tip, giving the snake a specked or patterned appearance.

This is one of the rarest venomous snakes in Africa.

Only two isolated populations of Ashe’s Bush Viper are known to exist! Researchers have identified these snakes in very humid, dense rainforests. They’re arboreal, spending most of their time in trees, often about 1.8 m (6 ft) above the ground. Like other keeled snakes, their scale pattern helps them with camouflage and climbing trees.

They also have fascinating defensive behavior. Ashe’s Bush Vipers will perform a stridulating threat display when they feel threatened. This means that they slide the looped coils of their body against one another, and their keeled scales rub together to create a hissing noise. Below you can see an example of another type of viper displaying this behavior.

YouTube video

Bites from Ashe’s Bush Vipers should be taken seriously. While few bites have been recorded, their venom contains anticoagulants, and the person bitten may require blood transfusions.

#32. Green Bush Viper

  • Atheris chlorechis

Also known as Western Bush Vipers or West African Leaf Vipers.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are about 50 cm (20 in) long.
  • Their coloring is light green with a pale green underside and pairs of faint yellow spots running down their back about 2.5 cm (1 in) apart.
  • They have slender bodies, triangular heads, and intensely keeled scales.

Look for this venomous snake in Africa in dense forests.

Green Bush Vipers spend most of their time in branches 0.9-1.8 m (3-6 ft) off the ground. Their coloring allows them to remain hidden amongst the foliage to avoid predators and ambush prey like rodents, lizards, and tree frogs.

While they’re not aggressive snakes, a bite from a Green Bush Viper can have serious consequences. Their venom can result in internal hemorrhaging and renal failure, which can be fatal if left untreated.

#33. Kenya Montane Viper

  • Montatheris hindii

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 20-30 cm (8-12 in) long.
  • Their coloring may be tan, brown, reddish brown, dark brown, or gray. Often they have dark markings outlined with a lighter color on the body.
  • They have elongated heads, small, forward-set eyes, and keeled scales on their backs and heads.

As their name suggests, you’ll only find these venomous snakes in Africa in mountainous habitats. They typically live in treeless areas between 2,700-3,800 m (8,900-12,500 ft) above sea level. They use clumps of grass as cover when hunting and resting.

Due to their relatively cool habitat and low nighttime temperatures, Kenya Montane Vipers are only active during the day. Even then, they will only come out if there’s enough sunlight to warm their environment.

Don’t let their small size fool you; these snakes are capable predators. They feed primarily on chameleons, skinks, and small frogs.

Kenya Montane Vipers are listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List. Researchers believe they only have small, isolated populations and are among the 30 most endangered viper species worldwide.

Did you know that snakes are considered venomous, NOT poisonous?

There currently is a common misconception between poisonous and venomous, one is ingested, and the other is injected. So, for example, If you eat something that makes you sick, then it is considered “poisonous.” But if an animal, like a snakes, delivers its toxins when it bites, then it’s considered “venomous.”

Learn more about animals found in Africa in these ID Guides:

Which of these venomous snakes have you seen before in Africa?

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