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Most Venomous Snakes in Nigeria



Most venomous snakes in Nigeria

Do you know that 10% of the death rate in Nigeria are caused by venomous snakes and can be found in forests, deserts, swamps and grasslands?

Four major venomous snakes can be found in Nigeria, with only three being prominent: they include the carpet viper, the puff adder, the gaboon viper and the black-headed spitting cobra. These venomous species can each be classified in the families of Viperidae, Elapidae, and Atractaspidinae.

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In this post, we will feed your mind with 9 most venomous snakes in Nigeria that we feel it most deserve your attention

let’s get to it…

9 venomous Snakes in Nigeria

  1. The West African Carpet Viper
  2. The Gaboon Viper
  3. The Puff Adder
  4. The Black-Headed Spitting Cobra
  5. The Desert-Horned Viper
  6. The Egyptian Cobra
  7. The Javelin Sand Boa
  8. The Boomslang
  9. The Black Mamba

The West African Carpet Viper


The carpet viper is also known as Echis ocellatus, is basically nocturnal, that is, it is mostly active at night. Usually 2 feet long with speckled light and brown dorsal scales plus a light-coloured belly. Its movement is sidewinding, in that, it raises its upper body, while bracing its head as the remaining body parts coils along without actually touching the earth surface.

It is found everywhere in Nigeria usually in its natural (forest and savannah) habitats, of up to 3,000 feet above the water surface.

According to the Medical Journal of Therapeutics, carpet viper is responsible for more than 90% of snake bites in the country, and over 70% of mortalities. Its victims are mostly farmers and children.

Its breeding season often coincides with rainfall of the annual monsoon season, thus driving it to seek shelter in much higher and drier habitats to lay its eggs. This makes farmers, the most affected, because during this season they visit their farms to harvest their crops, thus stand the risk of being bitten by these venomous snakes, whose hemotoxic venoms makes it the most dangerous snake in all of Africa, based on human morbidity and mortality rates.

If a person is bitten by the carpet snake, the victim immediately experiences blisters, swelling and bleeding occasioned by tissue damage that is likely to result in necrosis. Most venomous snakes in Nigeria

The Gaboon Viper

The Gannon Viper can be found throughout the tropical rainforests and other wet regions in Central Africa, the gaboon viper (otherwise referred to Bitis gabonica) feeds on rodents, frogs and birds, and they come out mostly during the evenings.

It’s huge with a body length of 4 to 6 feet long with its brown skin colour and leaf-shaped head that provides perfect camouflage when it’s underneath the leaves. It reproduces by producing 30 to 70 live snakes.

The gaboon viper is well known for its long fangs with a length of 2 inches tall, bites from this poisonous snake accounts for several snakebites deaths in Nigeria every. Its venom when transmitted and left untreated could be lethal.

The Puff Adder

The puff adder otherwise known as (Bitis arietans) can be found throughout North Africa. Although considered non-aggressive and sometimes sluggish, it accounts for more than 60% of reported snakebites in Africa.

Its poison is cytotoxic and injected through its front-hinged fangs that stick out when it opens its mouth and pulls back inside when it closes mouth.

A bite from the Puff adder can kill the victim if left untreated within 24-26 hours, worst still it could result in serious necrosis, that may requiring amputating the affected body part.

With a body length of about 3 feet long with light brown and beige body marks that provide a perfect camouflage. The puff adder prefers open grasslands, savannahs, woodlands as well as rocky outcrops, where they can easily prey on rodents and birds. Most venomous snakes in Nigeria

Often considered sluggish and chiefly terrestrial, the puff adder, like many snakes, is harmless until provoked. Bites from the puff adder is usually as a result of people mistakingly stepping on the light-coloured snake.

Its poison is cytotoxic and is injected through the front-hinged fangs that protrude in a switchblade like a manner when it opens its mouth, and retracts inwards into a protective sheath when it closes its mouth.

The Black-Necked Spitting Cobra


The black-neck spitting cobra otherwise referred to as Naja nigricollis, is characteristically like an open hood, which can spit when it’s been provoked.

This specie of snake is very poisonous and responsible for several recorded snakebites and fatalities yearly mostly in Nigeria & Namibia. The olive-brown skinned snake has a black and yellow-red belly with really broad, dark-coloured throat. Most venomous snakes in Nigeria

They feed on preys like toad, lizard, grasshopper and rodents. Female black-headed spitting vipers grows up to 6 feet and the males 4.5 feet long. The females lay 10 to 30 eggs each breeding season.

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The Desert-Horned Viper

Found in several deserts in North Africa, the desert-horned viper otherwise referred to as cerastes cerastesis, of the Viperidae snake family is common in the Sahara Desert between Egypt and Morocco.

The black-headed spitting cobra can be found in a wide range of habitats in the desert; rocks, hills, sandy desert and valleys, etc. When the sun in the desert becomes too hot it buries itself in the dunes to escape the hot sun.

Considered small in size, when compared to other desert snakes, an adult desert-horned viper reaches 1 to 2 feet tall. With brownish-yellow skin colour, it blends effortlessly into the desert floor, and its most outstanding feature is a pair of supra-orbital horns that has a single scale on each eye from which dark lines extends downward to its back.

The desert-horned viper overpowers its prey by secreting a mild venom. It feeds on lizards, rodents, geckos, birds, etc. Most venomous snakes in Nigeria

The Egyptian Cobra

Most Poisonous snakes in Nigeria

The Egyptian cobra otherwise referred to as (Naja haje), or ‘asp,’ belongs to the Elapidae snake family. It lives mainly in open fields, the countryside and in cultivated farmlands in hot, dry regions of Morocco.

It is always found near water and around houses as it searches for preys like rodents. When provoked, the Egyptian cobra can stretch up to 2 feet, rearing its neck ribs in a hoodlike form to 5 inches wide. With its front fangs, it injects neurotoxic poison into its victim. Once bitten, the victim is paralysed as death follows due to respiratory failure.

An adult Egyptian cobra grows up to 7.5 feet long, with an extended black that encircles a yellow or greyish-brown to dark brown skin, with either a black or brown head.

The Egyptian cobra feeds mainly on toads, frogs, birds, lizards, and suchlike small mammals. This snake represents imperial power during the ancient times, as it’s depicted on pharaoh’s crown. There is a myth surrounding it, that is is an “asp” that was chosen by Queen Cleopatra to kill herself.

The Javelin Sand Boa

javelin sand boa close-up, juvenile in natural habitat ( Eryx jaculus )

The javelin sand boa otherwise referred to as (eryx jaculus) belongs to the Boidae snake family. It is a constrictor that circles its prey to suffocate them.

They can be found all over North Africa from Morocco to Egypt. 3 feet long, the Javelin sand boa has a thick, brown to yellow or reddish-brown skin colours that effortlessly blends with desert sand.

Typical of all members of the Boidae snake family, they prefer ambush-style hunting, while hiding in the dunes to catch their prey by surprise. They feed on small mammals, lizards, birds, slugs, etc.

The Boomslang

Most Poisonous snakes in Nigeria

The Boomslang can be found only in sub-Saharan Africa. (Dispholidus typus) is considered the most poisonous snake in Africa. Its venom once in the bloodstream will cause blood incoalesce and triggers uncontrollable external and internal bleeding.

The poison from a Boomslang bite moves slowly, and its symptoms take several hours to manifest. Thus the victim might assume that they don’t need treatment, which may lead to health complications such as tissue damage. Despite the severity of the boomslang’s bite, human mortality rarely occurs.

This is due to the simple fact that boomslangs are timid snake species that would rather flee from humans rather than attack them. They prefer tree-tops (hence the meaning of “Boomslang” is literarily translated to mean ‘tree snake’ in Afrikaan language).

The body colour of Boomslang varies, but male Boomslangs have a light green and dark blue scale, while a female Boomslang is typically brown. They have large eyes with body lengths of about 5.2 feet.

The Black Mamba

Most Poisonous snakes in Nigeria

While (Dendroaspis polylepis) otherwise referred to as the black mamba is not the most venomous snake specie in Africa, it is however dreaded.

There are so many reasons for this: the black mamba is aggressive when cornered and secondly it has a large size. It is the largest among the most venomous snakes in Africa. It has an average length of around 8.2 feet.

The black mamba is also the fastest of all the local snake species in Africa, thus when provoked it strikes more than once to paralyze its victim. Its poison is made up of neurotoxins and cardiotoxins, which would cause the victim to pass out immediately after about 45 minutes of the bite. Thus without the anti-venom readily available, there is a high chance that the victim will not survive the bite.

Their name is no way suggestive of their body colour black mambas are brown or olive-skinned. Their abode can be found in many habitats in sub-Saharan Africa and they prefer to spend time on the forest floor.

Having explored through the 9 most poisonous snakes in Nigeria it will interest you to look into some snakes we have in Nigeria. venomous snakes in Nigeria

Explore with me:

How Many Snakes Are In Nigeria?

Three species of snakes can be found in Nigeria. They include the carpet viper (a.k.a. Echis ocellatus), the black-necked spitting cobra (a.k.a. Naja nigricollis), and the puff adder (known as Bitis arietans). They all belong to the Viperidae and Elapidae snake families.

Every year there are 497 reported cases of snake bites with a 15 % mortality rate, and Echis ocellatus accounts for at least 70 % of such bites in specific foci. Snakebite is known to occur when the victims are farming, herding, etc. Agricultural workers are most affected, and these are the most economically productive members of society.

The carpet snake has prothrombin-activating procoagulant, haemorrhaging, and cytolytic poisonous content that when secreted causes bleeding, blood incoalesce, and necrosis.

A bite from the spitting cobra is often occasioned by internal tissue reaction and followed by bleeding from the bitten body area.

Damage to the heart and renal failure is likely to occur following bites from the carpet viper and the puff adder. Rendering the affected limb immobile is the most important first aid.


Snakebite is a major public health issue in rural communities of Nigeria. The carpet viper (i.e the Echis ocellatus) the African cobras (Naja spp) and the puff adder (Bitis arietans) have proven to be the major cause of deaths resulting from snakebite in the country.

Major characteristics of the Elapidae ocellatus’ bite include haemorrhage, blood incoalesce, swelling, bleeding and necrosis.

Snakebites may result in amputation of the bitten limb, blindness, disability, mutilation, tissue damage and psychological traumas. Antivenom is the only remedy and envenoming management in Nigeria. Studies have shown that it offers up to 80% protection against mortality from carpet-viper bites in the country. However, availability, distribution and proper utilization of antivenom is a big challenge within the country.

Though two new antivenoms have been developed from the poison of snakes in the country. And they include (monospecific EchiTab G & tri-specific EchiTab ICP-Plus).

A holistic approach is required to broaden access to antivenom, particularly in rural areas to ensure quality assurance and standard. Effective antivenom is the only remedy for snakebites, as it’s preclusive, scarce, and sometimes inefficient for a cure.

Farmers should be encouraged to wear boots while on the farm, and thus protect themselves and prevent snake bites. When giving antivenom to a snakebite victim, it is advised that it be used cautiously.



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