9 Types of VENOMOUS Snakes in Botswana! (2023)
Do you want to learn about the types of venomous snakes in Botswana?
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 Botswana 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 Botswana:
#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 venomous snakes in Botswana.
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!
- 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 venomous snake makes its home in low-lying trees in Botswana.
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. Rhombic Night Adder
- Causus rhombeatus
Also known as Demon Night Adders, Cape Night Adders, African Night Adders, and Cape Vipers.
- 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 Botswana. 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.
#4. 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 lurks what many consider the deadliest venomous snake in Botswana, 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.
#5. Twig Snake
- Thelotornis capensis
Also known as Cape Twig Snake, Savanna Vine Snake, Southern Bird Snake, Cape Twig Snake
- 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 Botswana 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.
#6. Anchieta’s Cobra
- Naja anchietae
- 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 Botswana!
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!
#7. Horned Adder
- Bitis caudalis
- 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.
#8. Mozambique Spitting Cobra
- Naja mossambica
- 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 Botswana.
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 Botswana.
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.
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.
#9. Cape Cobra
- Naja nivea
Also known as Yellow Cobra and Black Spitting Cobra
- 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 Botswana, 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.
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 Botswana in these ID Guides:
Which of these venomous snakes have you seen before in Botswana?
Leave a COMMENT below!