Africa has a reputation for the wild, the untamed, the beautiful, and the dangerous. Silverback gorillas, fearsome lions, anti-social rhinos and lurking crocodiles are just a few of the continent’s formidable creatures.
Yet, it’s not just the large animals that give Africa its edge. In fact, there are several smaller ones that give the continent some extra bite. And, their bites may be small, but they have intense consequences.
This post will take a look at 4 venomous African snakes, including the deadliest snake in Africa.
Don’t You Mean Poisonous Snakes of Africa?
Let’s clear something up. There are not really any poisonous African snakes. Why?
The term ‘poisonous’ refers to an animal or plant being toxic to eat. The term, ‘venomous’ refers to organisms that use a bite or sting to inject toxins into something else.
Simply put, you should be more worried about the snake biting you than you biting the snake.
List of Venomous African Snakes
Having cleared up the confusion between a poisonous African snake and a venomous one, let’s take a look at some of the continent’s most dangerous snakes. But first…
A few of you may be the brave types. You are the ones who want to get up close and personal with the most dangerous snakes in Africa. Luckily for you, the Durban Phezulu Cultural Village & Reptile Park offers a fascinating tour that enables you to see these incredible creatures.
If amphibians and arachnids are also a fascination for you, why not do the Hazyview Blyde River Boat trip and Reptile Park tour. You’ll have a blast!
Some of the snake species you can encounter on these tours are included in our top 4 venomous snakes list.
Most Venomous Snake of Africa: Boomslang
Many people would expect the Black Mamba to be number one. But, surprisingly, the Boomslang takes the title.
The Boomslang lives in trees. Its name literally means ‘tree snake’ in Afrikaans (an official South African language). This snake can be found in sub-Saharan Africa.
The male Boomslang snake is rather extraordinary looking. It is bright green with black and blue edges to its scales. This green venomous snake can range between 3.3ft and 5.2ft (1 meter – 1.60 meters) in length. The females, on the other hand, are an unremarkable brown.
This snake’s venom is considered some of the most potent in Africa and is haemotoxic.
This means that it negatively affects human blood-clotting processes. Symptoms of the toxin include uncontrollable bleeding in the body – internally and externally.
Although this African tree snake has one of the most venomous bites, it is not responsible for the majority of snake-bite fatalities on the continent. This snake is timid in nature and more likely to avoid people than its aggressive cousin, the Puff Adder.
Deadliest Snake in Africa: Puff Adder
What makes the Puff Adder Safarinear’s most deadly snake of Africa? This viper is responsible for the most bites and fatalities across the continent.
This species camouflages exceptionally well into many habitats across Africa. They are easy to stumble into by accident.
This African viper is roughly 39.3in (1 meter) in length and noticeably thick. Its pattern varies across geographic regions, however the Puff Adder does have two distinguished dark bands on its head.
They are deadly because they do not back down when approached by people. This is not a snake with which to have a Mexican standoff. You will not win!
The Puff Adder snake received its name because of its interesting habit of inflating its body and hissing when it is under threat.
One last thing to note: The Puff Adder’s venom is cytotoxic in nature. This means that the venom attacks the cells of the body, resulting in severe pain and often, death.
West African Carpet Viper
The West African Carpet Viper is also known as an ocellated carpet viper. This small snake is approximately 20in (0.65 meters) in length. Despite its small size, it has a fearsome reputation.
This snake is responsible for a large number of snake-bite fatalities in Africa. This places it up there in the danger rankings with the Puff Adder.
These West African snakes are usually a soft yellow-brown colour with eye-shaped spots running the length of its body. These ‘eyes’ help to deter potential predators from taking a second look at it.
Victims of this viper’s toxic bite may experience internal bleeding and a complete disruption of the circulatory system. This can be slow-acting, and occur days after the bite took place.
An interesting fact about this snake is its tendency to ‘sizzle’. They are known by another name, the saw-scaled viper, because of this ‘sizzling’ warning sound they make when threatened. The sound is created when this species of viper rubs its scales together.
The Black Mamba is feared throughout Africa. Not only is it venomous but also highly aggressive in nature.
This ‘black’ African snake can be provoked by what it deems to be perceived threats. These threats can include blocking its way or infringing on its room to maneuver. Don’t corner it!
Although this mamba is described as black, it is actually closer to brown, and sometimes grey. In fact, this deadly African snake was named for its black mouth, not its body color.
The Black Mamba is one of the largest of this continent’s venomous snakes (second behind the King Cobra). It can reach 9ft 10in in length (3 meters) and can be found in sub-Saharan Africa.
When it bites, the mamba repeatedly strikes at its target, leaving several puncture points. Unlike the Boomslang and Puff Adder, this snake’s venom is neurotoxic in nature.
If a person has been bitten, neurological symptoms can include nausea, sweating, collapse and even respiratory failure. If antivenom is not administered in time, the bite can lead to death.
Final Thoughts on Venomous Snakes of Africa
It’s interesting to see that the different venomous snakes of Africa have varying types of venom. The Boomslang’s toxin affects the blood. The Puff Adder’s bite affects the cells. And the Black Mamba affects the nervous system.
Even though these toxins affect different bodily systems, they can have similar, and potentially fatal results. Luckily, antivenom is available today and if sourced in time, can prevent a lethal outcome!