12 Most Venomous Snakes in Africa

Most Venomous Snakes in Africa
Photo by Tirza van Dijk

Africa is home to some of the most dangerous and deadly snake species on Earth. They include venomous snakes that can kill a human with one bite and non-venomous snakes that can deliver a nasty bite.

This list features some of these deadly serpents, their range, habitat, diet, size, lifespan, and other interesting facts about them.

The following are the top 12 most venomous snakes in Africa.

1. Carpet Viper

Vipers are a group of venomous snakes found across North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. There are currently around 120 species of viper, and all possess venom, which is used to kill their prey.

The venom is delivered via two hollow fangs, which inject it into prey with enough force to puncture holes in human bone. 

One such snake is the Carpet Viper (Echis ocellatus), which lives in Northern Africa and the Middle East. It has a dark brown body with distinctive chevron-shaped markings on its back, though some individuals may have lighter markings or bands along its length.

Like many other members of the Viperidae family, this snake relies on camouflage for protection rather than venom as it rarely attacks humans.

2. Black Mamba

It is one of the most venomous snakes in Africa, and the Black Mamba has been responsible for more human deaths than any other snake on Earth.

Many myths surround its behavior, with some locals believing it can leap up to 8 feet and kill a bird in flight! Like all of Africa’s deadly species, it hunts using infrared heat sensors instead of sight. 

Mambas usually grow up to 3 meters long. Still, they’re capable of expanding their neck to expose the scales along their spine to scare away predators or emit odors from glands near their mouths—these sometimes have strong neurotoxic effects on prey animals or predators trying to eat them.

3. Egyptian Cobra

The Egyptian Cobra is one of the most venomous snakes in North Africa and Arabian countries. This species is known for being extremely fast-moving and aggressive.

When threatened, they will rise into an S curve and display their fangs to make them appear larger than they are. 

Cobras are large snakes by comparison with others, at only 1-3 meters long on average. They’re not generally considered one of Africa’s most dangerous snakes; most encounters with these snakes result in no fatalities.

4. Boomslang

The first thing you’ll notice about a boomslang is its beautiful blue tongue, which can be shot out of its mouth up to two feet.

The species gets its name from a Zulu word, tree snake that strikes loudly. When threatened, boomslangs coil and hiss, then strike repeatedly at whatever’s scaring them. 

Their venom contains hemotoxins—which work by destroying red blood cells—and cytotoxins—which cause tissue damage and interfere with cell division.

Neither is known to have ever killed a human being. Still, it might be worth wearing shoes on your next hike, as boomslangs are one of the most venomous snakes.

5. Horned Adder

The Horned Adder (Bitis caudalis) is a venomous viper species in southern and eastern Africa. It is responsible for many snakebite deaths among humans in Africa and is considered one of the most venomous snakes in Africa. 

The horned adder habitat includes savanna, grassland, bushveld, shrubland, and agricultural land. Farm workers often kill the African Horned Adder due to its killing of poultry, especially young chicks and ducklings. This snake hunts small mammals and other snakes such as its species but not larger ones.

6. Puff Adder

The puff adder can produce a very toxic venom making it one of the most venomous snakes in Africa. There are three different puff adder species, all found in sub-Saharan Africa.

Though it will bite any animal that gets too close, it primarily preys on other snakes, lizards, rodents, and birds.

The puff adder (Bitis arietans) releases an unpleasant odor when threatened. With over 90% of its diet comprised of other reptiles and venomous animals, an encounter with a human is relatively unlikely.

If bitten by a puff adder, medical attention should be sought immediately, as even with treatment, victims can die. Avoid getting anywhere near one is best to err on caution!

7. Taipan

The most venomous snakes in Africa is called ‘Oxyuranus microlepidotus,’ known as Taipan, originally from Australia. The Taipan is one of a dozen most venomous snakes in Africa and includes African Puff Adder and Gaboon viper.

It is believed that male Taipans possess more venom than females, but there’s not much difference between them when they bite. 

Male taipans possess more toxic venoms than their female counterparts due to their quality (concentration) rather than quantity. This is true for most snakes worldwide.

8. Saw-Scaled Viper

The saw-scaled viper is one of the most venomous snakes found throughout parts of North Africa, Southwest Asia, and India. Its poison contains a potent neurotoxin known as protamine that has been used for research and medicine. 

The Saw-scaled viper feeds on small rodents, lizards, birds, and other snakes. It prefers to live near sandy areas where it can easily burrow. 

When threatened, it will try to escape into its caves or use its camouflage by lying flat against a sandy surface. If caught, it will violently bite its aggressor with large fangs positioned at the front of its mouth.

9. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

With a body length of up to five feet and a tail that can be over three feet long, it’s no wonder why they are sometimes called Diamondbacks.

Even with its small eyes, it is not difficult to see why they have excellent vision. Their habitat includes Florida, Louisiana, southern New Mexico, and eastern Texas. 

The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is known for its quick temper and high amount of venom released with each bite! They are popular among snake charmers because of their rattle sound and strength. 

If you want to learn more about snakes or other animals on our planet, contact us today! You may also want to visit our zoo and check out some of these amazing creatures firsthand.

10. Gaboon Viper

With a large head and triangular-shaped eyes, you know immediately that you’re dealing with a viper. And you wouldn’t want to mess with it. It has one of the most potent venoms around, making it one of the most venomous snakes.

 It also sports two curved fangs that inject massive venom into prey. Up to 100 mg per bite, enough to kill 11 humans. As if that weren’t scary enough, these snakes can grow up to 7 feet long and weigh more than 10 pounds! 

Thankfully these vipers are pretty docile and don’t tend to attack humans unless provoked. However, they’re known for ambushing their prey by lying still on the ground until they get close enough.

11. Rhinoceros Viper

A Rhinoceros viper possesses a distinctive horn-like head and the habit of curling into an S shape when threatened. They are less aggressive than other snakes but will still bite if you get too close. 

Although they only grow to about 2 feet long, they’re one of the most venomous snakes on Earth. Their venom contains a toxin that destroys red blood cells, leading to renal failure and death. 

Even with antivenom treatment, your chances aren’t good – fatality rates are as high as 25%. If bitten by a rhinoceros viper, seek medical attention immediately. These snake bites are often fatal without treatment.

12. Spitting Cobra

The Spitting Cobra (Naja sputatrix) is a species of most venomous snake endemic to certain parts of sub-Saharan Africa. It gets its name from its habit of forcefully ejecting venom from its fangs.

When threatened, venom is ejected instead of biting and releasing it through multiple bites, as most other snakes do.

The two major lineages within Naja, East African and West African, are geographically distinct. The Naja nigricollis may also belong to either or both lineages. But more research is needed to confirm that it does not belong in a separate genus altogether. 

While most spitting cobras inhabit savanna regions, some live in more arid zones such as Madagascar and islands off Mozambique. It’s also unusual among the most venomous snakes in Africa to have horizontal pupils like humans rather than vertical ones.

The Spitting Cobra (Naja mossambica) launches a gooey saliva spray at the attackers. The black-necked spitting cobra (Naja nigricollis) shoots out a blinding white liquid from its mouth.

Conclusion

Venom is a very powerful weapon; with it, it can kill. Snakes need venom to catch prey or defend themselves from being prey. 

It is only understandable for us to be impressed by snakes with such dangerous weapons, and we shouldn’t admire them too much since they are our enemy when we take their place as food. 

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