Gabon Viper also called the Bitis gabonica, this type of species is found in rainforest and savanna of sub-Saharan Africa, in all the venomous vipers’ .The Gabon viper is one of the largest members of genus Bitis, the viper has the longest fangs up to 2 inches in length it’s the highest venom yield of any snake. There other two subspecies that are recognized.
Adult average 125-155cm in total lengthy with a maximum total length of 205cm .The sexes are distinguished by the length of teeth this is related to the total length of the body, this is 125 for males and 6% for females. The adult females are stout and very heavy. They have a total maximum of 175cm with research that this species can grow large. Another species in 1973 was caught with an empty stomach weighing 11.3kg.
Its head is large and triangular, while the neck is greatly narrowed this is only one-third of width of the head. They have a pair of horns that are raised between nostrils. Its eyes are large and moveable.
Its color consists of series of pale, interspaced with dark, yellow-edged hourglass markings, sub rectangular blotches running down the center of the back.
Its belly is pale with irregular brown or black blotches. Its head is cream and white, black spots on the rear corners, dark central line, and dark blue-black triangle below each eye. Its colour is cream, orange, yellow white or silvery.
The common snakes include the Gabon viper, forest puff adder, Gabon adder, whisper, swamp jack, butterfly adder.
Gabon vipers are found in rainforests nearby woodlands at a low altitude as high as 1500m .the snake is found in environments that are parallel by close relatives that are normally found in open country.
In Uganda this type of species is found in forests and the nearby grasslands, coffee plantations. Occur in areas of high rainfall along the forest escarpment in different areas of the country. Gabon vipers in general can be spotted in swamps, moving water and other areas near forests and on roads at night.
Gabon vipers are very slow in moving, they hunt by ambush, often spending long periods motionless, ready for any suitable prey to pass by. They hunt actively during the first six hours of the evening hours or night. They are torrent snakes; they rarely bite or hiss unlike other vipers. However, bites by bad tempered individuals normal occur.
They move in a locomotion way in a sluggish, walking style when they are alarmed they will move side to side but for short distances.
In case of any threat, the viper will hiss loudly as a warning, by doing so in a deep and steady rhythm, they will slightly flatten their heads at the expiration of each breath.
They are among the fastest-striking snakes in the world although they strike when provoked, so there is need of care when taken in handling them. They can be handled as freely as any non-venomous species although they are not recommended. Anger and hissing were rarely displayed.
Gabon vipers have wider range of eye movement than any other type of snake. The eye movement can be rotated up and down up to 45o.in case the snake rotates its head in 360o, one of the eyes will tilt up and another down, this depends on the direction of rotation. one eye can as well look forward ,and another back as if both are connected to a fixed position .The eyes will flick back in a rapid and jerky manner.whe sleeping there is no eye movement as well as the pupils are strongly contracted. The pupil will dilate suddenly and the eye movement will resume when the animal wakes up.
They have large, heavy body size; adults have no trouble eating prey as large as a full grown rabbit. They will strike with a fast precision.
Once they strike, they will hang on the prey until it dies. The behavior is different from other species of vipers. Gabon viper feed on mammals and a variety of birds, such as doves, many different species o rodents these include the rats, mice rabbits and hares. There other reports of prey items, such as tree monkeys, brush-tailed and the small royal antelope.
Gabon vipers are very active during the peak season, males engage themselves in combat. By rubbing its chin ad neck intertwine. When the heads finally level, they will turn towards each other and push making their bodies to intertwine as they switch to different positions.
They will continue combating until they fall a surface or water. As they squeeze and intertwine tightly their scales stand out from the pressure. Gabon vipers have been observed when their mouths are closed although they might retire and break off to rest for a while before they resume. They will settle down until one pushes the others head to the ground and rise on its own by 20-30cm.combat takes place four or five times in a week until courtship ends.
The gestation period takes place in about seven months, this suggest a breeding cycle for two to three years. There is a possibility of five years breeding cycle; they normally give birth in late summer.
There severally bites that are extremely rare, this is due to their unaggressive nature and their range is limited to rainforest areas. Since they are unwilling and sluggish when their moving even when approached, the bites often occur due to person who accidentally steps on a Gabon Viper, although this does not guarantee a bite.
However incase a bite occurs, this should be considered a serious medical emergency.
The snake venom isn’t considered toxic based on tests conducted in mice. Each bite of the venom gland produces large quantities of venom due to African vipers such as, Puff Adder .The Gabon viper does not release after a bite, it injects larger amount of venoms.
Monkeys were very sensitive with an estimated 14mg of venom would be enough to kill a human being. When a Gabon viper beats a human, it will cause swelling, pain, shock and blistering. Other symptoms include urination, defecation, swelling of eyelids and tongue. Bruising, Blistering and necrosis that are very extensive.
There are sudden hypotension, dyspnoea and heart damage. The blood becomes incoagulable with internal bleeding that might lead to haematemesis and haematuria .the local tissue damage require surgical excision and amputation to any affected limb. Although healing may be very slow during recovery period.