The Gaboon viper is one of the brightest representatives of the reptile family in the wild nature of our planet. It is unusual in many ways: its color, appearance, behavior and lifestyle have characteristic features that do not allow it to be confused with other types of poisonous snakes.
Cassava, as the Gaboon viper is otherwise called, being in its natural habitat, calm and non-aggressive, however, the venom of this snake contains strong toxins in its composition, causing heavy bleeding in the body of the victim. Considering that with a bite it injects about 5-7 ml of poison, after 15 minutes the concentration of toxins becomes fatal even for an adult.
But, despite the fact that at present the range of the Gaboon viper is very close to agricultural lands and habitats of people, it is rather difficult to provoke this dangerous predator to aggressive behavior.
View origin and description
Africa is rightfully considered the historical homeland of vipers, their first tribes arose there, which subsequently settled on other continents. Africa holds the record for the number of species of various vipers, there are much more of them than in Europe and Asia combined.
If we talk about African vipers, then the most famous among them are the two most dangerous representatives of the Bitis genus – Gaboon and noisy vipers. Both of them are quite phlegmatic, equally deadly, only a noisy viper is able to instantly turn into a state of aggression, and in order to really anger the Gaboon viper, you need to make a lot of effort or cause it severe pain. In addition, the Gaboon viper is twice as large and has a brighter color.
Video: Gaboon viper
To observe the bewitching behavior of this huge snake, the researchers traveled great distances. The unusual appearance, structural features of her body, and the manner of hunting excite the human imagination and give the image of the Gaboon viper a mythical shade.
The first mention of cassava can be found in the writings of the French zoologist Andre Marie Dumeril in 1854. For living, she chooses wooded areas with high humidity. Due to the structural features of the body, the predominant hunting style of the Gaboon viper is waiting in ambush. However, it is known that in search of food, the predator can travel great distances and easily crawls into the steppe territories, looking for suitable prey.
Recently, cases of the appearance of cassava near human settlements and plantations have become frequent, which indicates the expansion of its habitat and its approach to people. But the Gaboon viper is dangerous to humans only in case of extreme aggression towards it. In the absence of irritants, the phlegmatic disposition of the predator makes her indifferent to everything that happens.
In a calm state, the cassava is no more dangerous than the snake. You can pick it up and put it in a bag without expecting an attack. In order for the Gaboon viper to bite a person, a direct and obvious threat associated with the extreme negligence of a person is necessary. But the large size and bright colors of the snake almost exclude this possibility.
Appearance and features
Cassava is simply enormous in size for its species. Adults grow from 0.8 to 1.2 meters in length, and the eastern subspecies of the Gaboon viper reaches 2 meters. With such parameters, the weight of the snake is much greater than that of its comparable relatives. According to the structure of the body, the Gaboon viper resembles a log with a very colorful, conspicuous color. The area in which the viper prefers to live, and determined its bright color, merging with the multi-colored fallen leaves.
Interesting fact: Some researchers have noted the similarity of the texture of the pattern on the body of the snake with the pattern of Persian carpets.
With its considerable length, the cassava has a large triangular head, crowned with growths-horns inherent only in this species, which makes the unusual appearance of the snake even more mystical. The cassava head is the largest of all related reptiles. The teeth of the predator are simply huge and can reach 5 cm in length.
The dimensions of the body of the Gaboon viper determined its bewitching manner of moving. The thick log-like body and heavy weight make it move in a straight line. Only to increase speed, it makes zigzag movements with a large bend. This manner of movement is inherent in the cassava and distinguishes its other relatives.
The Gaboon viper has two subspecies – eastern and western. It is easy to guess that they were named according to the territory of their original habitat. Now both subspecies are ubiquitous, but are still easily distinguishable by external signs. Vipers of the eastern subspecies are larger and have clearly defined growths in the form of horns on their heads.
The thick body of the snake, with a powerful head, creates only its inherent uniqueness in everything. The long-term evolution of the reptile determined its behavioral characteristics, hunting style and calm, phlegmatic behavior.
Where does the Gaboon viper live?
Currently, the habitats of the Gaboon viper are found in the central part of Africa. It is less common in the east and parts of South Africa. Preferring tropical rainforests, cassava often chooses cocoa plantations and wet meadows to live. For its comfortable living, areas with high rainfall and a humid subtropical climate are suitable. Cassava populations have been noted in savanna woodlands and on a cashew plantation. In addition to the territories described, the foothills up to 1500 meters above sea level became habitats for the Gaboon viper.
The conditions for the habitat of this type of viper are a humid climate, foliage, but in search of food, the snake can move quite long distances, crawling into other climatic zones. It is known that these snakes do not make significant migrations, remaining in their usual and comfortable habitat, however, recently they have been increasingly noticed in areas cultivated by humans. Crops inevitably attract a large number of rodents and insects, and for the Gaboon viper, this is a real smorgasbord.
The eastern subspecies of the Gaboon viper is more widespread than the western subspecies. Its main habitats — these are areas of Central Africa from Benin to the east to South Sudan, to the south & # 8212; to northern Angola and Zambia. In addition, reptiles of the eastern subspecies can be found in eastern Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. Populations of the western subspecies occupy territories in the west of the continent in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Ghana.
Now you know where the Gaboon viper lives. Let's see what she eats.
What does the Gaboon viper eat?
Cassava is a nocturnal predator. Preferring to hunt at dusk, the snake uses all the features of its body to get suitable food. Cassava uses thermolocators, which are developed in pit vipers, to detect prey. Additional sense organs are vision and a forked tongue sensitive to odors.
The main prey of the Gaboon viper:
- small warm-blooded animals;
- large insects.
Vipers are happy to eat forest lizards, grass and marsh frogs, voles, spindles and shrews, as well as bird eggs. Young vipers feed on beetles, locusts, catch caterpillars, butterflies, worms, slugs and ants.
An interesting fact: There are cases when especially large individuals of the Gaboon viper got porcupines, tree monkeys for lunch and even pygmy antelopes.
In hunting tactics, the Gaboon viper chose the method of ambush and waiting for prey. By disguising its body in fallen leaves, the snake is able to lie still, waiting for many hours. Seeing the victim, the snake makes a lightning throw and captures the prey. With the help of a massive head and powerful jaws, the cassava holds prey for the introduction of a lethal dose of poison, and then swallows it whole. Cassava poison is one of the deadliest. During the bite, she throws it into the body of the victim in such an amount that the victim has no chance of survival.
Sometimes vipers crawl out of their preferred wooded area in the steppe. Especially to hunt rats, which are considered easy prey. While catching small rodents, they do not have to spend much time in ambush, and there is enough food for a quite hearty lunch. But even with this goal, the predator moves away from her home at a distance of no more than 500 meters.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
The phlegmatic nature of the snake, its impressive size, hunting style and habitat in the process of evolution formed an unusual in all respects an animal that makes a person respect his deadly strength and bewitching appearance.
An interesting fact: In one of the zoos, the Gaboon viper, being in a state of stress, bit itself on the back and died, but not from its own poison, but as a result of damage inflicted on the internal organs by its powerful and long teeth.
The Gaboon viper leads a leisurely lifestyle during the day, and with the onset of dusk, it freezes in ambush, waiting for prey. The snake-catchers say that she practically does not resist when caught. You can pick it up with your bare hands by the tail and put it in a bag, completely without expecting reciprocal aggression. Even during mating season, Gaboon viper males fighting for a female never bite each other. Such battles are more of a ritual nature and do not cause significant harm to their participants.
However, the slowness and calmness of cassava can sometimes be very deceptive. The snake is able to make a lightning dash in any direction, acting at such a speed that the potential victim does not even have time to notice the approach of danger.
Interesting fact: The Gaboon viper does not always squirt poison into the body of the victim, saving it by some logic.
As already mentioned, there is little that can throw a cassava out of balance. But, sensing a threat, the snake inflates its body, flattens its head on exhalation and emits a menacing hiss, trying to cause fear and drive away the detected danger.
Social structure and reproduction
The Gaboon viper is a solitary hunter. Interaction with other individuals occurs only during the mating season, which falls on the rainy season. Males participate in ritual battles, trying to press the opponent's head to the ground. Outwardly, the battle is similar to mating. The female approves the winner by raising her tail. The battles of males for a female can last for several periods, the ritual certainly ends with the mating of the winner and his chosen one.
The Gaboon viper, like most of its closest relatives, is ovoviviparous. The offspring of this species appears once every 2-3 years. Typically, the female will carry the eggs for seven months.
Interesting fact: The female Gaboon viper has the amazing ability to “postpone” pregnancy for several months by retaining the male's sperm in her body.
Cassava hides nests deep in the thicket of the forest, in hard-to-reach places, and vigilantly guards them. Most often, offspring appear at the end of summer. There can be from 8 to 40 cubs in a litter. In the larger eastern subspecies of the Gaboon viper, the number can reach 60 individuals. Cubs are born 25-30 centimeters long.
For mating Gaboon vipers in a terrarium, it is enough for an experienced serpentologist to create an imitation of an increase in environmental humidity so that the female and male begin mating games. How many years the Gaboon vipers live in the wild is not known for certain. Experts believe that the average lifespan of these snakes is between 10 and 30 years.
Natural enemies of Gaboon vipers
Despite the fact that the Gaboon viper is rather clumsy and clumsy in everyday life, its behavior indicates that it has practically no natural enemies in nature. The usual enemies of snakes – hedgehogs, foxes, wild boars, birds of prey – prefer to bypass the frightening-looking log-shaped person, preferring easier and safer prey. If the poison of ordinary vipers does not miraculously affect these representatives of the fauna, then the poison of cassava may well cause the death of any of them. cassavas often die at the hands of a person or as a result of his activities. The primitive fear of people in front of poisonous snakes sometimes leads to the fact that people, without hesitation, kill Gaboon vipers that are in close proximity to their homes, despite the fact that the reptiles do not show any aggression.
Human farming activities attract many rodents, and hence Gaboon vipers, who want to feast on easy prey. This is where snakes are killed in large numbers. Moreover, predators die not only at the hands of a person, but also under the wheels of cars, agricultural machinery, and under the hooves of horses.
The beautiful and bright color of the Gaboon viper, generously presented to it by nature, cannot but attract poachers who destroy these unique snakes for the sake of their skin, which artisans are willing to buy to make various fashion accessories and souvenirs.
Population and species status
Currently, the population of the Gaboon viper is declining no more than the populations of many representatives of its species and today does not need special protection. Experts are convinced that the number of cassava individuals in nature is impressive due to its ability to reliably hide and carefully protect its own nests, which ensures a high percentage of offspring survival.
Once again, we should pay tribute to the phlegmatic Gaboon viper, which deprives it of aggressiveness towards other representatives of the fauna and forces it to use combat skills only for the purpose of obtaining food. In other words, cassavas do not get involved in showdowns with other animals, preferring a quiet and measured existence, which ultimately saves their lives.
By hunting small pest rodents, the snake provides a significant service to man in his economic activities. But the use of uncivilized methods in the endless struggle for the harvest, associated with the use of modern highly toxic poisons for the destruction of rodents, cannot but affect the population of vipers that have chosen such lands as a source of their food. There is a risk that snakes, during hunting, swallow rodents that already have a lethal dose of chemicals in their bodies. Such a dinner will not do without consequences for the viper, and in some cases it can be fatal.
Historical facts testify to a peculiar cult of vipers in the mythology of Egypt. They were often depicted on the clothes, belts and headdresses of the priests. The crown of the most revered goddess of Egypt, Isis, was also decorated with the image of a viper. The ancient Egyptians, who revered the goddess Isis as a symbol of femininity and motherhood, saw in this decoration the wrath and punishment of the goddess, the embodiment of revenge for atrocities. To this day, many peoples of Africa revere the cassava as a sacred animal.
It is human nature to hate and destroy everything that in one way or another poses a danger or threat to his life. The Gaboon viper is a bright representative of a species of poisonous snakes that originated in Africa.