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!
1. Puff Adder
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
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
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
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 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
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 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
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 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
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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