Do you want to learn about the types of venomous snakes in Zambia?
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 Zambia 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 Zambia:
#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 Zambia.
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 Zambia.
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. 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 Zambia!
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.
#4. 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 Zambia. 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.
#5. 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 Zambia, 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.
#6. 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 Zambia 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.
#7. 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 Zambia 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.
#8. 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.
#9. 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 Zambia!
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!
#10. 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 Zambia.
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 Zambia.
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 Zambia in these ID Guides:
- 39 Amazing ANIMALS to see in Zambia! (ID guide w/ pics)
Which of these venomous snakes have you seen before in Zambia?
Leave a COMMENT below!