7 Types of VENOMOUS Snakes in Malawi! (2023)
Do you want to learn about the types of venomous snakes in Malawi?
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 Malawi 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 Malawi:
#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 Malawi.
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 Malawi.
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 lurks what many consider the deadliest venomous snake in Malawi, 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.
#4. 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 Malawi 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.
#5. 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 Malawi.
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 Malawi 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.
#6. 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.
#7. 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 Malawi.
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 Malawi.
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.
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 Malawi in these ID Guides:
Which of these venomous snakes have you seen before in Malawi?
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