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POISONOUS SNAKES OF AFRICA AND ASIA


Boomslang
Dispholidus typus

Description: Coloration varies but is generally green or brown, which makes it very hard to see in its habitat.

Characteristics: Will strike if molested. Its venom is hemotoxic; even small amounts cause severe hemorrhaging, making it dangerous to man.

Habitat: Found in forested areas. It will spend most of its time in trees or looking for chameleons and other prey in bushes.

Length: Generally less than 60 centimeters.

Distribution: Found throughout sub-Saharan Africa.


Bush viper
Atheris squamiger

Description: Often called leaf viper, its color varies from ground colors of pale green to olive, brown, or rusty brown. It uses it prehensile tail to secure itself to branches.

Characteristics: An aboreal species that often comes down to the ground to feed on small rodents. It is not aggressive, but it will defend itself when molested or touched. Its venom is hemotoxic; healthy adults rarely die from its bite.

Habitat: Found in rain forests and woodlands bordering swamps and forests. Often found in trees, low-hanging branches, or brush.

Length: Average 45 centimeters, maximum 75 centimeters.

Distribution: Most of Africa, Angola, Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, and Zaire.


Common cobra
Naja naja

Description: Also known as the Asiatic cobra. Usually slate gray to brown overall. The back of the hood may or may not have a pattern.

Characteristics: A very common species responsible for many deaths each year. When aroused or threatened, the cobra will lift its head off the ground and spread its hood, making it more menacing. Its venom is highly neurotoxic, causing respiratory paralysis with some tissue damage. The cobra would rather retreat if possible, but if escape is shut off, it will be a dangerous creature to deal with.

Habitat: Found in any habitat cultivated farms, swamps, open fields, and human dwelling where it searches for rodents.

Length: Average 1.2 meters, maximum 2.1 meters.

Distribution: All of Asia.


Egyptian cobra
Naja haje

Description: Yellowish, dark brown, or black uniform top with brown crossbands. Its head is sometimes black.

Characteristics: It is extremely dangerous. It is responsible for many human deaths. Once aroused or threatened, it will attack and continue the attack until it feels an escape is possible. Its venom is neurotoxic and much stronger than the common cobra. Its venom causes paralysis and death due to respiratory failure.

Habitat: Cultivated farmlands, open fields, and arid countrysides. It is often seen around homes searching for rodents.

Length: Average 1.5 meters, maximum 2.5 meters.

Distribution: Africa, Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.


Gaboon viper
Bitis gabonica

Description: Pink to brown with a vertebral series of elongated yellowish or light brown spots connected by hourglass-shaped markings on each side. It has a dark brown stripe behind each eye. This dangerous viper is almost invisible on the forest floor. A 1.8-meter-long Gaboon viper could weigh 16 kilograms.

Characteristics: The largest and heaviest of all true vipers, having a very large triangular head. It comes out in the evening to feed. Fortunately, it is not aggressive, but it will stand its ground if approached. It bites when molested or stepped on. Its fangs are enormous, often measuring 5 centimeters long. It injects a large amount of venom when it strikes. Its venom is neurotoxic and hemotoxic.

Habitat: Dense rain forests. Occasionally found in open country.

Length: Average 1.2 meters, maximum 1.8 meters.

Distribution: Most of Africa.


Green mamba
Dendraspis angusticeps

Description: Most mambas are uniformly bright green over their entire body. The black mamba, the largest of the species, is uniformly olive to black.

Characteristics: The mamba is the dreaded snake species of Africa. Treat it with great respect. It is considered one of the most dangerous snakes known. Not only is it highly venomous but it is aggressive and its victim has little chance to escape from a bite. Its venom is highly neurotoxic.

Habitat: Mambas are at home in brush, trees, and low-hanging branches looking for birds, a usual diet for this species.

Length: Average 1.8 meters, maximum 3.7 meters.

Distribution: Most of Africa.


Green tree pit viper
Trimeresurus gramineus

Description: Uniform bright or dull green with light yellow on the facial lips.

Characteristics: A small arboreal snake of some importance, though not considered a deadly species. It is a dangerous species because most of its bites occur in the head, shoulder, and neck areas. It seldom comes to the ground. It feeds on young birds, lizards, and tree frogs.

Habitat: Found in dense rain forests and plantations.

Length: Average 45 centimeters, maximum 75 centimeters.

Distribution: India, Burma, Malaya, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, and Formosa.


Habu pit viper
Trimeresurus flavoviridis

Description: Light brown or olive-yellow with black markings and a yellow or greenish-white belly.

Characteristics: This snake is responsible for biting many humans and its bite could be fatal. It is an irritable species ready to defend itself. Its venom is hemotoxic, causing pain and considerable tissue damage.

Habitat: Found in a variety of habitats, ranging from lowlands to mountainous regions. Often encountered in old houses and rock walls surroundings buildings.

Length: Average 1 meter, maximum 1.5 meters.

Distribution: Okinawa and neighboring islands and Kyushu.


Horned desert viper
Cerastes cerastes

Description: Pale buff color with obscure markings and a sharp spine (scale) over each eye.

Characteristics: As with all true vipers that live in the desert, it finds refuge by burrowing in the heat of the day, coming out at night to feed. It is difficult to detect when buried; therefore, many bites result from the snake being accidentally stepped on. Its venom is hemotoxic, causing severe damage to blood cells and tissue.

Habitat: Only found in very arid places within its range.

Length: Average 45 centimeters, maximum 75 centimeters.

Distribution: Arabian Peninsula, Africa, Iran, and Iraq.


King cobra
Ophiophagus hannah

Description: Uniformly olive, brown, or green with ringlike crossbands of black.

Characteristics: Although it is the largest venomous snake in the world and it has a disposition to go with this honor, it causes relatively few bites on humans. It appears to have a degree of intelligence. It avoids attacking another venomous snake for fear of being bitten. It feeds exclusively on harmless species. The female builds a nest then deposits her eggs. Lying close by, she guards the nest and is highly aggressive toward anything that closely approaches the nest. Its venom is a powerful neurotoxin. Without medical aid, death is certain for its victims.

Habitat: Dense jungle and cultivated fields.

Length: Average 3.5 meters, maximum 5.5 meters.

Distribution: Thailand, southern China, Malaysia Peninsula, and Philippines.


Krait
Bungarus caeruleus

Description: Black or bluish-black with white narrow crossbands and a narrow head.

Characteristics: Kraits are found only in Asia. This snake is of special concern to man. It is deadly--about 15 times more deadly than the common cobra It is active at night and relatively passive during the day. The native people often step on kraits while walking through their habitats. The krait has a tendency to seek shelter in sleeping bags, boots, and tents. Its venom is a powerful neurotoxin that causes respiratory failure.

Habitat: Open fields, human settlements, and dense jungle.

Length: Average 90 centimeters, maximum 1.5 meters.

Distribution: India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.


Levant viper
Vipera lebetina

Description: Gray to pale brown with large dark brown spots on the top of the black and a mark on top of the head.

Characteristics: This viper belongs to a large group of true vipers. Like its cousins, it is large and dangerous. Its venom is hemotoxic. Many deaths have been reported from bites of this species. It is a strong snake with an irritable disposition; it hisses loudly when ready to strike.

Habitat: Varies greatly, from farmlands to mountainous areas.

Length: Average 1 meter, maximum 1.5 meters.

Distribution: Greece, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Afghanistan, lower portion of the former USSR, and Saudi Arabia.


Malayan pit viper
Callaselasma rhodostoma

Description: Reddish running into pink tinge toward the belly with triangular-shaped, brown markings bordered with light-colored scales. The base of the triangular-shaped markings end at the midline. It has dark brown, arrow-shaped markings on the top and each side of its head.

Characteristics: This snake has long fangs, is ill-tempered, and is responsible for many bites. Its venom is hemotoxic, destroying blood cells and tissue, but a victim's chances of survival are good with medical aid. This viper is a ground dweller that moves into many areas in search of food. The greatest danger is in stepping on the snake with bare feet.

Habitat: Rubber plantations, farms, rural villages, and rain forests.

Length: Average 60 centimeters, maximum 1 meter.

Distribution: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Java, Sumatra, Malaysia, Vietnam, Burma, and China.


McMahon's viper
Eristicophis macmahonii

Description: Sandy buff color dominates the body with darker brown spots on the side of the body. Its nose shield is broad, aiding in burrowing.

Characteristics: Very little is known about this species. It apparently is rare or seldom seen. This viper is very irritable; it hisses, coils, and strikes at any intruder that ventures too close. Its venom is highly hemotoxic, causing great pain and tissue damage.

Habitat: Arid or semidesert. It hides during the day's sun, coming out only at night to feed on rodents.

Length: Average 45 centimeters, maximum 1 meter.

Distribution: West Pakistan and Afghanistan.


Mole viper or burrowing viper
Atracaspis microlepidota

Description: Uniformly black or dark brown with a small, narrow head.

Characteristics: A viper that does not look like one. It is small in size, and its small head does not indicate the presence of venom glands. It has a rather inoffensive disposition; however, it will quickly turn and bite if restrained or touched. Its venom is a potent hemotoxin for such a small snake. Its fangs are exceptionally long. A bite can result even when picking it up behind the head. It is best to leave this snake alone.

Habitat: Agricultural areas and arid localities

Length: Average 55 centimeters, maximum 75 centimeters

Distribution: Sudan, Ethiopia, Somaliland, Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda, Cameroon, Niger, Congo, and Urundi.


Palestinian viper
Vipera palaestinae

Description: Olive to rusty brown with a dark V-shaped mark on the head and a brown, zigzag band along the back.

Characteristics: The Palestinian viper is closely related to the Russell's viper of Asia. Like its cousin, it is extremely dangerous. It is active and aggressive at night but fairly placid during the day. When threatened or molested, it will tighten its coils, hiss loudly, and strike quickly.

Habitat: Arid regions, but may be found around barns and stables. It has been seen entering houses in search of rodents.

Length: Average 0.8 meter, maximum 1.3 meters.

Distribution: Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, and Jordan.


Puff adder
Bitis arietans

Description: Yellowish, light brown, or orange with chevron-shaped dark brown or black bars.

Characteristics: The puff adder is the second largest of the dangerous vipers. It is one of the most common snakes in Africa. It is largely nocturnal, hunting at night and seeking shelter during the day's heat. It is not shy when approached. It draws its head close to its coils, makes a loud hissing sound, and is quick to strike any intruder. Its venom is strongly hemotoxic, destroying bloods cells and causing extensive tissue damage.

Habitat: Arid regions to swamps and dense forests. Common around human settlements.

Length: Average 1.2 meters, maximum 1.8 meters.

Distribution: Most of Africa, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan.


Rhinoceros viper or river jack
Bitis nasicornis

Description: Brightly colored with purplish to reddish-brown markings and black and light olive markings along the back. On its head it has a triangular marking that starts at the tip of the nose. It has a pair of long horns (scales) on the tip of its nose.

Characteristics: Its appearance is awesome; its horns and very rough scales give it a sinister look. It has an irritable disposition. It is not aggressive but will stand its ground ready to strike if disturbed. Its venom is neurotoxic and hemotoxic.

Habitat: Rain forests, along waterways, and in swamps.

Length: Average 75 centimeters, maximum 1 meter.

Distribution: Equatorial Africa.


Russell's viper
Vipera russellii

Description: Light brown body with three rows of dark brown or black splotches bordered with white or yellow extending its entire length.

Characteristics: This dangerous species is abundant over its entire range. It is responsible for more human fatalities than any other venomous snake. It is irritable. When threatened, it coils tightly, hisses, and strikes with such speed that its victim has little chance of escaping. Its hemotoxic venom is a powerful coagulant, damaging tissue and blood cells.

Habitat: Variable, from farmlands to dense rain forests. It is commonly found around human settlements.

Length: Average 1 meter, maximum 1.5 meters

Distribution: Sri Lanka, south China, India, Malaysian Peninsula, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and surrounding islands.


Sand viper
Cerastes vipera

Description: Usually uniformly very pallid, with three rows of darker brown spots

Characteristics: A very small desert dweller that can bury itself in the sand during the day's heat. It is nocturnal, coming out at night to feed on lizards and small desert rodents. It has a short temper and will strike several times. Its venom is hemotoxic.

Habitat: Restricted to desert areas.

Length: Average 45 centimeters, maximum 60 centimeters.

Distribution: Northern Sahara, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria, Chad, Somalia, and central Africa.


Saw-scaled viper
Echis carinatus

Description: Color is light buff with shades of brown, dull red, or gray. Its sides have a white or light-colored pattern. Its head usually has two dark stripes that start behind the eye and extend to the rear.

Characteristics: A small but extremely dangerous viper. It gets the name saw-scaled from rubbing the sides of its body together, producing a rasping sound. This ill-tempered snake will attack any intruder. Its venom is highly hemotoxic and quite potent. Many deaths are attributed to this species.

Habitat: Found in a variety of environments. It is common in rural settlements, cultivated fields, arid regions, barns, and rock walls.

Length: Average 45 centimeters, maximum 60 centimeters.

Distribution: Asia, Syria, India, Africa, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Algeria, Egypt, and Israel.


Wagler's pit viper or temple viper
Trimeresurus wagleri

Description: Green with white crossbands edged with blue or purple. It has two dorsal lines on both sides of its head.

Characteristics: It is also known as the temple viper because certain religious cults have placed venomous snakes in their temples. Bites are not uncommon for the species; fortunately, fatalities are very rare. It has long fangs. Its venom is hemotoxic causing cell and tissue destruction. It is an arboreal species and its bites often occur on the upper extremities.

Habitat: Dense rain forests, but often found near human settlements.

Length: Average 60 centimeters, maximum 100 centimeters.

Distribution: Malaysian Peninsula and Archipelago, Indonesia, Borneo, the Philippines, and Ryuku Islands.

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