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The Reptile House
Gaboon vipers are the largest vipers in the world. Gaboon vipers have a unique pattern of colors that range from shades of brown to pinks and purples. The patterns on its body help it stay camouflaged among the leaves of the forest floor. They have broad heads and horns become present with age. They’re also known for their large fangs that can reach up to 2 inches in length.
Gaboon vipers play a large roll in controlling the rodent population in the rainforest. Their bite is so lethal that smaller prey is killed instantly when bitten; larger animals are struck, released and then tracked by scent.
8 years in captivity.
In the wild, it is thought that gaboon vipers would not live as long due to constant threats such as predators, famine and habitat destruction.
Females can give birth every two to three years producing as many as 50-60 babies at a time. The Zoo does not breed our vipers because of the unfortunate amount of regular breeding in the pet trade. Zoos are commonly asked to be recipients of confiscated gaboons.
You won’t see much action from the gaboon vipers here at the Zoo. This is not much different than how they would be seen in the wild. Due to their size and weight, the gaboon is a sluggish snake that sits and waits for its prey. However, its bite is not to be underestimated. The gaboon has one of the fastest and most lethal strikes of any serpent. Like other snakes when threatened, a gaboon will rear up and hiss to reveal its fangs to an encroaching predator.
The average size is 4-5 feet (1.2 – 1.5 meters). Females are often longer than the males.
The gaboon viper can weigh up to 18 pounds, making it one of the heaviest snakes in Africa.
In the wild, gaboon vipers feed on small mammals and birds. Here at the Zoo, the female viper eats a medium-sized rat every three weeks, while the male is fed a smaller rat every other week.
The gaboon viper is found in the rainforests of central, west and east Africa.
To learn more about the conservation efforts at the Philadelphia Zoo, click here.
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