Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Gaboon viper

By MSA 2005 Map showing tropical rainforests habitats in central Africa


Class Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Viperidae
Genus and species: Bitis gabonica

Gaboon vipers have the longest teeth of any snake, measuring up to two inches. The snakes themselves can be between four and six feet long and weigh up to 25 pounds. Unlike other species, female gaboon vipers tend to be larger than males.

These snakes possess a range of color, from muted browns to pinks and purples.

There are two types of gaboon vipers from different regions of Central Africa. One type has very small horns on its snout while the other has large horns. Gaboon vipers are born with the type of horns that they are going to have, but as they age, the horns on their snouts do grow.

The gaboon viper is a nocturnal snake, hunting small mammals, birds, and amphibians mainly at night. In the wild, these vipers particularly enjoy rodents.

Reaching sexual maturity by age two or three, females give birth to live young and can have up to 60 babies at a time. Gaboon vipers generally reproduce every two to three years.

Learn about another reptile or amphibian: