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West African Gaboon Viper

Bitis rhinoceros

Did you know?

  • West African Gaboon vipers are part of the Viperidae family, which they share with other vipers.
  • They live in forests and woodlands in Western Africa.
  • They are the largest true viper species in the world.
  • They have the longest fangs of any venomous snake in the world.
  • A female will give birth to 50 to 60 babies at a time.


West African Gaboon vipers are the largest true viper species. They are able to reach lengths of over six feet and often weigh over 40 pounds. Their fangs grow to be about two inches long. Their leaf-shaped heads and beautiful coloration provide wonderful camouflage as they sunbathe to warm up, half-buried in the debris of the forest floor. Gaboon vipers are venomous but they rarely bite, even when stepped on. If disturbed, it startles and warns potential enemies by forcibly exhaling air through its nostrils.

Young and Family

Female West African Gaboon vipers will birth between 50 and 60 live babies at a time. West African Gaboon vipers are ovoviviparous, which means the females will hatch fertile eggs inside their bodies. Then, she will give birth to live young. The young snakes are on their own from birth.

Threat Level

  • Unknown
  • Common
  • Near Threatened
  • Threatened
  • Endangered
  • Critically Endangered
  • Extinct in the Wild


The West African gaboon viper is widespread and abundant.


Western Africa


Rain forests and adjacent woodlands

We care about West African Gaboon Vipers

We support this species in the Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium at the Zoo. Learn more about how we are helping wildlife around the world.

Dedicated to Conservation

Find this animal in Historic Hill


Historic Hill

Historic Hill is a lovely stroll through one of the oldest parts of the Saint Louis Zoo. From the 1904 World’s Fair Flight Cage to the Spanish architectural flavor of the 1920s in the Bird House, Primate House and Herpetarium to the finishing touches of our thoroughly modern exhibits, this area of the Zoo has a unique ambiance and a nostalgic history that make it a great destination.

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