Meet 10 Snakes of the Congo River

Written by Brandi Allred
Published: August 13, 2022
© Danita Delimont/Shutterstock.com
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The Congo River is one of the longest rivers in the world. In Africa, it’s second only to the Nile River. By discharge volume, it’s second only to the Amazon River in South America. With nearly 3,000 miles of waterways, the snakes of the Congo River have plenty of space to spread out. There are many species of snake living in the Congo River drainage, some of which are highly dangerous. 

Here, we’ll discover ten of the most interesting snakes of the Congo River. We’ll learn about their looks, hunting strategies, and favorite foods. We’ll also learn whether or not they’re dangerous and whether they live on the ground or high in the trees.

Keep reading to learn more about the snakes of the Congo River!

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1. Puff Adder

puff adder in aggressive pose
These snakes live in many parts of Africa; they’re responsible for many snakebites on humans yearly.

©iStock.com/EcoPic

Puff adders are one of the most widespread snakes in Africa. They grow up to 60 inches long and have heavy, rattlesnake-like bodies. They’re terrestrial (ground dwelling) with scales in shades of light, medium, and dark brown that help them blend in. These snakes primarily come out at night to hunt a wide variety of prey, including lizards, birds, mammals, and amphibians. Puff adders have potent venom, which they readily inject in self-defense when threatened.

2. Black-necked Spitting Cobra

These snakes live throughout sub-Saharan Africa; their venom is potent enough to kill humans who don’t receive prompt medical attention.

©Scott Delony/Shutterstock.com

Black-necked spitting cobras of the Congo River grow up to seven feet long. They’re almost entirely black, except for some pale underside markings. Also, like the North American cottonmouth, they display bright white mouth interiors. Capable of killing humans with their venom, these snakes can both spit and inject venom. They’re known to defend themselves aggressively and don’t hesitate to spit in self-defense. Black-necked spitting cobras eat mostly small mammals.

3. Forest Night Adder

Night Adder
Also known as the West African night adder, spotted night adder, or forest rhombic night adder, these snakes come out only at night.

©Cormac Price/Shutterstock.com

Forest night adders are small, with the largest specimens growing to just over two feet long. They’re generally brown to gray-green or olive-green, with some black markings and pale bellies. These snakes stick to the forest floor, where they hunt primarily toads and frogs. Forest night adders are venomous, though their venom is not generally life-threatening.

4. African Forest Cobra

A forest cobra with it's head raised, ready to strike
African forest cobras have deadly bites that can lead to serious complications and even death.

©reptiles4all/Shutterstock.com

These snakes of the Congo River grow up to ten feet long and are known as the largest true cobras. They have highly potent venom, which they can both spit and inject. African forest cobras are easily recognized by the thick black and white stripes on their upper bodies. Their lower bodies have white undersides and black sides and backs. They eat lizards, frogs, toads, fish, and bird eggs.

5. Gaboon Viper

Gaboon viper on the ground
These snakes have the distinction of having the longest fangs of any venomous snake in the world.

©Stu Porter/Shutterstock.com

Gaboon vipers are some of the heaviest, deadliest snakes in the world. Strictly terrestrial, these snakes of the Congo River exhibit almost every color of brown in their coloration. They have complex patterns made up of diamonds, bars, squares, and triangles. This patterning allows them to blend into the forest floor, where they hunt small mammals rats, and porcupines. They’re highly venomous but docile in nature; most bites occur when people accidentally step on them.

6. Green Bush Viper

Green Bush Viper
One of the most unique-looking snakes on the planet, the green bush viper is also known as the leaf viper, or Hallowell’s green tree viper.

©Will E. Davis/Shutterstock.com

These small snakes of the Congo River grow up to 30 inches long. Like all vipers, they have vertically elliptical pupils and triangular heads. Green bush vipers’ scales are pointed and stand out somewhat from the body, making them look like spike-covered snakes. These snakes are active at night and eat mainly small mammals they find on the ground.

7. Central African Egg Eating Snake

african egg-eating snake
Unsurprisingly, Central African egg-eating snakes are ovivores.

©Joe McDonald/Shutterstock.com

African egg-eating snakes of the Congo River are medium brown with yellow highlights and short snouts. They live in the trees and grow up to several feet long. What makes these snakes so unique is their diet: they eat only bird’s eggs, straight from the nest. Despite their appearance, these snakes are not venomous, though they have evolved to look like venomous snakes.

8. Jameson’s Mamba

Jameson's mamba,Dendroaspis jamesoni
These snakes are found only in Central Africa. They’re highly venomous, with bites that can easily kill a human if left untreated.

©Vladislav T. Jirousek/Shutterstock.com

These snakes of the Congo River grow up to 7.5 feet long, with slender bodies designed for an arboreal (tree-dwelling) lifestyle. Jameson’s mambas have bright green bodies that end in black tails, with bright yellow to tan bellies. They eat mostly small mammals and birds, which they envenomate with their potent neurotoxic venom.

9. Spiny Bush Viper

Spiny bush viper
Also known as the hairy bush viper, or rough-scaled bush viper, these snakes get their name from their highly characteristic scales.

©iStock.com/Mark Kostich

Spiny bush vipers grow up to 29 inches long and spend their lives in the trees. They’re yellow-green to brown in color, with pointed scales that stand up from their bodies. These scales are particularly upright near their heads, giving spiny bush vipers a dragon-like appearance. Like all vipers, they’re highly venomous.

10. Rhinoceros Viper

River Jack Snake or Rhinoceros Viper
Closely related to the Gaboon viper, rhinoceros vipers are also known as river jacks or butterfly vipers.

©Olivia Lundborg/Shutterstock.com

Named for the hornlike scales on their noses, these snakes of the Congo River grow up to 48 inches long and have heavy bodies. They’re built for life on the ground. Combinations of yellow, brown, red, and green scales in varying patterns make the rhinoceros viper almost impossible to see among the leaf litter of the forest floor. These snakes eat small mammals, amphibians, and occasionally fish.

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The Featured Image

Gaboon Viper
The venomous Gaboon viper uses its tongue to smell. It has the longest fangs of any snake. Like many members of Bitis, it has horns between its nostrils.
© Danita Delimont/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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