Atractaspis bibronii (Southern stiletto snake, Bibron's burrowing asp)

Suidelike sypikslang [Afrikaans]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Lepidosauromorpha > Lepidosauria > Squamata > Serpentes (snakes) > Family: Atractaspididae > Genus: Atractaspis

Atractaspis bibronii, Limpopo [photo A. Coetzer , from SARCA Virtual Museum]

Atractaspis bibronii, Limpopo [photo SG Thomas , from SARCA Virtual Museum]

Atractaspis bibronii [photo W. McCleland , from SARCA Virtual Museum]

Finger with bite from Atractaspis bibronii. [photo M. Douglas , from SARCA Virtual Museum]


The Southern Stiletto snake can be identified by the following features; a tail spine, small eyes, a uniform purple or black colour, a neck arch behind the head, the unique position of its fangs (this makes it impossible to handle) and its predominately nocturnal lifestyle. It grows to an average length of 40 cm and a maximum length of 70 cm.

Distribution and habitat

This snake has a wide range that includes; KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Limpopo, Swaziland, southern and central Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and north east Namibia. It favours a wide range of habitats ranging from fynbos to lowland forest. 


Eats burrowing reptiles, frogs and rodents.

Predators, parasites and disease

Eaten by other snakes.


Oviparous (egg-laying), lays between 3 and 7 eggs in summer.


Medical importance

The venom of this snake while not lethal is still dangerous and causes intense pain and swelling and often the loss of fingers. Antivenom is not effective and should not be used.



  • Broadley, D.G. 1983. FitzSimons' Snakes of Southern Africa. Delta Books, Johannesburg.

  • Marais, J. 2004. A Complete Guide to Snakes of Southern Africa. Struik Publishing, Cape Town.


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