Bitis gabonica (Gaboon adder, Central African Gaboon adder)

Koning-Poffadder, Gaboenadder [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: Viperidae > Genus: Bitis

Bitis gabonica (Gaboon adder, Central African Gaboon adder), KwaZulu-Natal [T Phelps ©, from SARCA Virtual Museum]

Bitis gabonica (Gaboon adder, Central African Gaboon adder), KwaZulu-Natal [J.K Warner ©, from SARCA Virtual Museum]



It can be easily identified by its distinctive large pale coloured head, its uniquely coloured body and its large size. Has an average length of 90 cm but may reach 1.2 meters.

Distribution and habitat

Has a confined distribution in Southern Africa, only being found in Northern KwaZulu-Natal and on the border of Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Its preferred habitat is lowland forest.


Feeds on rodents (e.g. rats and mice), hares, doves, monkeys and small antelope.

Predators, parasites and disease

Has few if any natural predators (It is able to kill potential predators such as mongooses), It is however threatened by habitat destruction.


Viviparous (give birth to live young); mating takes place between March and May; the young are born approximately a year later.  


Has been known to live for up to 20 years, however they usually live between 12 and 15 years.

Medical importance

Has a very powerful cytotoxic venom, which it injects in large amounts through its fangs. Its fangs are the longest of any poisonous snake in the world. Its bite is a medical emergency and requires urgent treatment in order to save the limb that has been bitten, and a large amount of antivenom is required to counter the effects of the venom. Despite this there are few recorded bites, mostly because this snake is rare and  is not aggressive.



  • 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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