West African Gaboon Viper
West African Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica)
1. Describe the animal
Adults average 125–155 cm (4 to 5 feet) in total length (body + tail) with a maximum total length of 205 cm (81 in) Head width 12 cm (4.7 in)
Girth size (circumference) 37 c (14.65 in)
Weight (empty stomach) 8.5 kg (19 lbs
2. How is it born? How does the mother care for it’s young?
Gestation takes about 7 months, which suggests a breeding cycle of two to three years. A five-year breeding cycle may also be possible. Usually, they give birth in late summer. B. g. gabonica produces 8–43 live young
3. How does it get its food? What does it eat?
Because of their large, heavy body size, the adults have no trouble eating prey as large as fully grown rabbits. When prey happens by, they strike with very fast precision from any angle. Once they strike their prey, they hang on to it with their large fangs rather than letting it go and waiting for it to die. This behaviour is very different from the behaviour of other species of vipers. These snakes feed on a variety of birds and mammals, such as doves, many different species of rodents, including field mice and rats, as well as hares and rabbits. There are also reports of more unlikely prey items, such as tree monkeys, the brush-tailed porcupine (Atherurus) and even the small royal antelope (Neotragus).
4. Where does it live, and what are some its habits?
The Gaboon viper is usually found in rainforests and nearby woodlands, mainly at low altitudes, but sometimes as high as 1500 m. Spawls et al. (2004) mention a maximum altitude of 2100 m. According to Broadley and Cock (1975), it is generally found in environments that are parallel to those occupied by its close relative, B. arietans, which is normally found in more open country.
In Tanzania, this species is found in secondary thickets, cashew plantations, and in agricultural land under bushes and in thickets. In Uganda, they are found in forests and nearby grasslands. They also do well in reclaimed forest areas: cacao plantations in West Africa and coffee plantations in East Africa. They have been found in evergreen forests in Zambia. In Zimbabwe, they only occur in areas of high rainfall along the forested escarpment in the east of the country. In general, they may also be found in swamps, as well as in still and moving waters. They are commonly found in agricultural areas near forests and on roads at night.
5. Who are it’s enemies, and how does it defend itself?
Bites from this species are very rare, due to their extremely unagressive nature and because their range is limited to rainforest areas. Due to their sluggishness and unwillingness to move even when approached, people are often bitten after they accidentally step on them, but even then in some cases they may not bite. Humans are the snakes worst enemy