Gaboon viper

With the highest venom yield (the amount of venom held in their venom glands at one time) of all venomous snakes, the Gaboon viper is the snake with the longest fangs in the world.

By National Geographic Staff
Published 2 Mar 2023, 10:31 GMT
A gaboon viper eating guinea fowl is pictured in close-up in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

A gaboon viper eating guinea fowl is pictured in close-up in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Photograph by Earth Touch

Vipers rule deserts, besiege homesteads and haunt the forest floor. Meet a snake family as diverse as the challenges they face in their quest for survival. Don't miss Legends of Venom: Viper on National Geographic Wild on Sunday 12th March, 6pm.

Gaboon vipers are lethargic and solitary ambush hunters, who can remain unmoving for long periods waiting for prey. When a small bird or rat does come around, the Gaboon’s powerful two-inch fangs and venom yield that is the highest among all snakes ensures that they don’t escape.

COMMON NAME: Gaboon Viper

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Bitis gabonica

TYPE: Reptiles

DIET: Carnivore

SIZE: Up to 7 feet

WEIGHT: Up to 22 lbs


Gaboon vipers are among the longest and heaviest snakes in the Viper family. They have a notably thick appearance around the body, which distinguishes them from other Vipers, and serves their ambush-hunting strategy well. The Gaboon has a triangle-shaped head, where it stores large venom sacs and fangs. On the tip of the Gaboon’s head are a set of extended scales which have the appearance of horns, like those on a rhinoceros. Dark spots along its body help make it invisible when getting up an ambush among beds of leaves.


Gaboon vipers are solitary and nocturnal. They are most active early in the night around sunset when they emerge from secluded hiding places to search for food. While hunting, they find a spot among the leaf-covered floor of their habitat to set up an ambush and lie perfectly still, waiting for prey to approach. Gaboon vipers use pheromones to locate potential mates.


The Gaboon Viper’s potent venom is delivered through intimidating fangs which are the longest among venomous snakes. It contains neurotoxins and hemotoxins, which destroy blood cells and vessels once they enter the body. Run-ins between humans and the Gaboon are rare, given the snake’s solitary nature, but are often deadly if a bite is inflicted.


Gaboon vipers are abundant in the rainforests of Sub-Saharan Africa including Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Togo.


Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us


  • Magazines
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2023 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved