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jungle viper

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The bush viper is a venomous reptile native to Africa. Snakes generally prefer short, dense flowering shrubs and tropical rainforests. The jungle viper is a solitary creature that lives arboreal and terrestrially. Their colors provide excellent camouflage. They blend into the ecosystem and ambush their prey.

Bush vipers are predators that bite their prey with their fangs while hanging from tree branches. The food of venomous snakes is mainly small mammals and reptiles such as lizards, toads and birds. For hunting, jungle vipers use two hollow front teeth.

When they bite, the prey is injected with a blood poisoning venom that weakens its defenses. Snakes weigh between four and eight pounds and are extremely fast, able to retrieve prey within milliseconds after prolonged periods of immobility.

These vipers go by many common names, including African vipers, variable bush vipers, green vipers, tree vipers, rough-scaled vipers, green bush vipers, and leaf vipers.

jungle viper 1

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5 Amazing Bush Viper Facts

Did you know these strange identification facts about jungle vipers?

  • Vipers come in orange, red, gray, black, yellow, blue, brown, and olive. But these colors change throughout the snake's life cycle.
  • African bush vipers often find habitat far from humans.
  • No antivenom can counteract the bite of a bush snake.
  • Unlike many reptiles, jungle vipers do not lay eggs. They give birth alive.
  • These venomous snakes prefer to live alone in zoos and may kill each other.

where to find them

Due to their distance from human settlements, venomous snakes prefer remote areas in the rainforests, mountains and deserts of West and Central Africa.

Types of Bush Vipers

The bush viper's head, like the rest of its body, is covered with thick, imbricate, keel-like scales.
The bush viper's head, like the rest of its body, is covered with thick, imbricate, keel-like scales.

© iStock.com/Mark Kostic

Bush vipers are members of the genus Atheris . There are about 18 species in this genus.

Vipers have a keeled scale that helps them blend in with their surroundings. All members of this species are venomous and unpredictable.

These animals bite, and their venom can cause breathing difficulties, fever, severe inflammation and worse.

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Here are some of the more common species:

  • Spiny Bush Viper – Atheris hispida has keel-like scales that protrude and create a spiny, hairy appearance. The spiny bush viper, also known as the dragon bush viper, has a body that is a mix of green and dark scale-tipped. Male bush vipers tend to be slender compared to female spiny bush vipers.
  • Unzungwe Bush Viper – Unzungwe ( Atheris barbouri ) is commonly known as the insectivorous viper. They hide in the mountains of Tanzania. The Unzungwe bush viper is one of the smaller reptiles in the viper family. They have round, large eyes on their triangular heads.
  • Cameroon Bush Viper – Also known as the Broadley Bush Viper and scientifically labeled Atheris broadleyi , the Cameroon Bush Viper is a stunner with a range of gorgeous colors. We do know that they can grow up to 30 inches, but little else is known about the Cameroonian bush viper.
  • Usumbara Bush Viper – The beautiful Atheris ceratophora is also known as horned bush viper, eyelashed bush viper, and horned tree viper. Their appearance is characterized by horn-like protrusions above the eyes.
  • Atheris clorechis – The Atheris clorechis is often called the Atheris tree viper because of its soft green body and yellowish spots; it has a slender body and a long tail. They measure between 20-28 inches. Like its cousins, this venomous snake waits long for prey to enter its territory.
  • Mount Kenya Bush ViperAtheris desaixi is black/green to charcoal in color with yellowish tips on the scales. Various shades of yellow create a whoosh pattern. These snakes are endemic to Kenya, hence the name.
  • Tai Hairy Bush Viper – The Tai Hairy Bush Viper, or Atheris hirsuta , only inhabits the Tai National Park in Ivory Coast. There is not much information about them. In fact, very few of these snakes have ever been photographed.
  • Mabu Mountain Forest Viper – Mozambique's Mabu Mountain is the only place where the forest viper ( Atheris mabuensis ) can be found. The keel-like scales on these carnivores are prominent. Their browns blend together to leave a striking pattern with golden eye highlights.
  • Matilda Horned ViperAtheris matildae , or horned viper, is one of the most recently discovered species in the snake kingdom. They are similar to Usumbara bush vipers and are the only bush vipers with horn-like protrusions above the eyes.
  • Great Lakes Bush Viper – Among the many Great Lakes snake nicknames are the black and green bush viper, sedge viper, and nitsche tree viper. They are found in parts of Africa, including the Albertine Rift Forest of Central Africa and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Atheris nitschei is olive green with black markings.
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scientific name

Green Bush Viper
The bush viper's scientific name is Atheris squamigera .

©Will E. Davis/Shutterstock.com

The jungle viper ( Atheris squamigera ) inhabits Central and West Africa, with a geographic range extending from Kamanyola in Kivu province to the Takamanda forest resort in Cameroon.

Other common names for this reptile are variable bush viper, green bush viper, leaf viper, and Hallowell's green tree viper. Like any venomous snake, the main characteristic of this species is its venomous toxin.

History and Evolution

Like other snakes, the prehistoric ancestors of bush vipers once had legs and used them like other legged reptiles such as turtles, lizards and alligators. However, at some point millions of years ago, infrequent use of the legs was to their advantage, and they became smaller and eventually disappeared or degenerated, which is still evident in some snakes today.

A highly venomous snake, the bush viper has evolved to use its fangs for a very powerful attack. While some species adapted the habit of retracting or wagging their tails, these venomous snakes survived and thrived as they became efficient killers.

Population and Conservation Status

Bush vipers are a large family found only in the wild in Africa. The population is healthy enough that no one keeps track of it. This is due to their remote location, nocturnal activity, and the unpredictable nature of the animals. In fact, not even the International Union for Conservation of Nature took the time to assess the snake's condition.

appearance and description

Red venomous bush viper in the African rainforest. Vipers come in orange, red, gray, black, yellow, blue, brown, and olive.
Red venomous bush viper in the African rainforest. Vipers come in orange, red, gray, black, yellow, blue, brown, and olive.

© iStock.com/Mark Kostic

Atheris squamigera will grow to about 18 to 24 inches from head to tail. The largest snake may reach 31 inches. Females tend to be the larger species.

  • They can weigh up to eight pounds.
  • Distinguishing features of bush vipers include a flattened, broad head that protrudes from a narrow neck.
  • The head, like the rest of the body, is covered with thick imbricate keel-like scales. The mouth is visibly open.
  • Its nostrils are on the side, and the eyes and nasal cavity are separated by two scales.
  • Some species are the same color, while others are different.
  • Depending on the location, the color is often in shades of green, dark, sage, light, blue, olive, olive brown, etc.
  • You may come across rare reddish, yellow or slate gray shades.
  • The keeled scales sometimes have yellow tips, forming herringbone or cross bands.
  • Belly dull to pale olive or yellow.
  • The color can be uniform or blotchy with black flecks.
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Read here to learn about the world's largest venomous snakes.

How dangerous are they?

Very aggressive bush viper (Atheris squamigera) on a tree. The average size of a snake is 18 to 24 inches.
Bush vipers are very aggressive and the average snake size is 18 to 24 inches.


extremely. At a minimum, the bite of a venomous snake can cause localized pain, tissue damage, swelling, or coagulation disturbances. Bites from other species can cause damage to the kidneys, pituitary and adrenal glands.

A venomous snake bite always has the potential to be fatal. Scientists believe that the saw-scaled viper is responsible for more human deaths than all other snakes combined.

Behavior and Humans

snake, great lakes bush viper
The bush viper is not a good house pet for a number of reasons, the most notable being that it is a venomous predator.

© reptiles4all/Shutterstock.com

Bush vipers are solitary animals and are unlikely to even spend time with their own species outside of mating season.

These snakes put a lot of effort into staying away from humans and finding habitat away from them. These animals make poor house pets for a number of reasons, most notably that they are venomous carnivores.

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These creatures have a neurotoxic venom that can damage internal organs or worse. And there is no antitoxin to prevent damage.

Predators that bush vipers keep an eye out for are birds and large animals. Snake venom doesn't work when the animal is under attack. The venom must enter the bloodstream to cause harm. If the snake is part of another animal's diet, stomach acid will reduce the acidity of the toxin and make it edible for the reptile.

Variable Jungle Viper's lifespan depends on the species. Typically, these creatures live between 10 and 20 years.

Won't. Most experienced herpetologists will tell you that keeping this venomous snake in your habitat is extremely dangerous.

The average size is 18 to 24 inches, but venomous snakes have been recorded as large as 31 inches.

extremely. Venomous fangs can cause serious physical effects, including death.

They hang from tree branches, and their coloring allows them to blend into the ecosystem. The snake will remain still until the prey gets too close, and then quickly strike.

Bush vipers are native to most of Central and West Africa.

Reptiles such as vipers feed on small mammals and occasionally birds.