The Gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica) is an adorably rotund specimen, growing up to 1.8 meters (6 feet) in length with an impressive girth. Weighing in between 7-10 kilograms (15.4-22 pounds), they are the heaviest African venomous snake and the largest member of the Bitis genus of vipers. They reside in the rainforests and woodlands of many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
While the Gaboon viper’s bulk may be impressive, what may be more impressive are its fangs. They hold the world record for the longest fangs of any snake, measuring 5 centimeters (2 inches). These formidable fangs also inject up to 2 grams (0.07 ounces) of venom per bite, the largest yield of all venomous snakes. These bites can be fatal to humans, with effects including blistering, heart and tissue damage, blood not clotting, and necrosis.
With a head resembling a fallen leaf, this nocturnal viper blends into the forest floor while it lies in wait for unfortunate prey to wander by. A passive hunter, the Gaboon viper usually ambushes small mammals, birds, frogs, and toads. However, individual specimens of these hulking reptiles have been identified as ingesting porcupines and antelopes.
Despite a large size and fierce bite, the Gaboon viper is actually a gentle giant with a placid nature. The snakes give out a warning hiss before striking if they are bothered. They rarely bite humans, with most bites recorded coming from captive specimens. One report from South Korea in 2018 describes a man bitten by his 1.3-meter-long (4.26 foot) pet Gaboon viper. The snake was bought on the Internet and thought to have been smuggled into the country from Africa. The man completely recovered, however, photos of his injuries serve as a warning to be careful with these snakes, no matter how laid-back they typically are.