Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica) Care Sheet
The Gaboon viper can be found in the rainforests and savannas of sub-Saharan Africa. Bitis gabonica is the largest member of the genus Bitis and also the world's heaviest viperid. The gaboon viper also has the longest fangs (up to 2 inches) and the highest venom yield of any venomous snake.
Gaboon Vipers can reach up to 6 feet in length and weigh within the 25 pound range. (Gabbies are large snakes.)
The lifespan of the gaboon viper has been estimated up to 18 years.
Gaboons are known to have a good temperament once they get older, but maximum caution must always be taken! They look placid but are waiting for their chance! If anything comes within striking distance (which is large) they will have no second thoughts to having a go at it. Gaboons are very accurate strikers and never miss. Always use handling tools. Never get relaxed around your snake. Their sluggish appearance quickly disappears when you see how fast and hard these guys strike! Quite unbelievable!!! Please be careful! They can strike in any direction, even over their back, so handle these guys with care.
Gaboon vipers get quite big; adults average at about 6ft but can get much bigger. You'll need quite a big setup for an adult. Bigger is better for your safety and the gaboons, it also helps with cleaning. I would suggest for an adult your enclosure be at least the length of the snake. You could get by with a 4ft though. Gaboons don't really move around that much, in the wild they are known to sit in the same spot for days but they don't like to feel too enclosed. These guys can strike in any direction so do not have a mesh top enclosure!
Gaboons are known to suffer from dehydration so make sure you keep humidity at about 60% to 70%. Too much and they can develop scale rot and other respiratory diseases, too little and they'll dry out!
Naturally they live on the tropical forest floor, they like cooler humid climates. Keep day temps at about 75-80° F on the hot side and 70° F on the cool side. At night you can drop the temps about 5 degrees.
For a natural environment, cypress mulch is suggested. It aides in keeping the humidity right and they like to bury themselves half under it. There is no need for a hide spot because they feel secure by hiding among the natural substrate. If you use an unnatural substrate like newspaper or paper towels then you'll need a hide spot.
Gaboons are ferocious eaters, and start off on rodents. They also eats frogs, toads and lizards. Young Gaboons can be fed twice a week on appropriately sized meals. Once a week if the prey item is a bit bigger. Adults should be fed once a week. They should be fed outside of the enclosure to minimize the risk of substrate being swallowed but they tend to lift their prey above the substrate to avoid this problem themselves. Use caution when feeding!
Always leave a shallow bowl of fresh water available, you can bury it to the level of the substrate so that your snake can access it easily.
,br /> Gaboons are known to get gut impaction, this can totally be avoided if your humidity is correct and they are being properly hydrated. Naturally they don't actively search for water, if they come across a shallow pool they'll drink. Gaboons who do not drink on their own should have their heads gently pushed to the surface of the water to encourage them to drink and train them to do so on their own. This should be enough but also give them a misting twice a week. I also give them a soak every week or so.
These snakes should not be kept by inexperienced keepers due to the fact they are extremely dangerous. They have extremely dangerous cytoxic venom and they inject serious amounts of it using the biggest set of fangs in a snake in the world, reaching 2 inches. Approximately 450-600 mg of venom is produced, only 90 mg need to prove fatal to humans. I am going to stipulate this again. The gaboon viper is not a snake to be kept by the beginner or inexperienced hot (venomous) keeper. They are extremely dangerous in the wrong hands and should be left to the experienced hot (venomous) keeper.
Bitis gabonica is the largest member of the genus Bitis.
Bitis gabonica is the world's heaviest viperid.
Gaboon vipers have the longest fangs (up to 2 inches).
Gaboon vipers have the highest venom yield of any venomous snake.
Articles Of Interest
Author: Devon Massyn
Bitis Gabonica Leaves - © Devon Massyn
Bitis Gabonica Fangs - © Brian Mckay [CC-BY-SA-2.0]