Do you want to learn about the types of venomous snakes in the Congo?
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 the Congo 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 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 venomous snakes in the Congo.
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 the Congo, 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.
#3. Spotted Night Adder
- Causus maculatus
Also known as Forest Rhombic Night Adders or West African Night Adders.
- 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 the Congo 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.
#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 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.
#5. 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 the Congo, 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.
#6. 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.
#7. 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 the Congo, 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!
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 the Congo in these ID Guides:
- Common Spiders That Live in the Congo
- 19 Amazing ANIMALS to see in Congo! (ID guide w/ pics)
Which of these venomous snakes have you seen before in the Congo?
Leave a COMMENT below!