15 Types of VENOMOUS Snakes in Kenya! (2023)
Do you want to learn about the types of venomous snakes in Kenya?
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 Kenya 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 Kenya:
#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 Kenya.
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!
#2. Jameson’s Mamba
- Dendroaspis jamesoni
- 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 Kenya, 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.
- 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 Kenya.
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.
#4. 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 venomous snake in Kenya!
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.
#5. 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 Kenya. 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.
#6. 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 Kenya, 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.
#7. 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 Kenya 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.
#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 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.
#9. Eastern Green Mamba
- Dendroaspis angusticeps
- 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 Kenya.
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 Kenya 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.
#10. Snouted Night Adder
- Causus defilippii
- 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.
#11. Red Spitting Cobra
- Naja pallida
- 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 Kenya! 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.
#12. African Bush Viper
- Atheris squamigera
Also known as the Variable Bush Viper, Leaf Viper, Green Bush Viper, or Hallowell’s Green Tree Viper.
- 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 Kenya, 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!
#13. Ashe’s Spitting Cobra
- Naja ashei
- 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.
#14. Ashe’s Bush Viper
- Atheris desaixi
- 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 Kenya.
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.
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.
#15. Kenya Montane Viper
- Montatheris hindii
- 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 Kenya 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 Kenya in these ID Guides:
Which of these venomous snakes have you seen before in Kenya?
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