Species group: Rattlesnakes and Other Vipers
Other common names: Rhinoceros Horned Viper; Rhino Viper; Horned Puff Adder; River Jack
Scientific name: Bitis nasicornis
Beautifully-patterned, impressively-massive, and highly-venomous, the Rhinoceros Viper has long been a popular zoo animal. It is also much admired by hobbyists, but should never be considered for private collections.
The Rhinoceros Viper is native to Central Africa, where it may be found from Sudan to western Kenya and Uganda, and west through Angola and to Guinea.
This semi-aquatic snake rarely strays from deep cover and is restricted to moist habitats such as rainforests, swamps, river floodplains, and the shores of streams and lakes.
Appearance / health:
The ground color is black or blue-black speckled with olive, and garishly marked with a variety of pale blue, yellow, white, and black geometric shapes. There is a distinct arrow-shaped marking between the eyes, and the rostral scales (above the nostrils) are shaped into “horns” that are yellow in color. The Rhinoceros Viper is very stoutly built and averages 3 ½ feet in length, with rare specimens reaching 5 ½ feet.
Zoo longevity approaches 10 years. It often proves a difficult captive and is not routinely bred.
Behavior / temperament:
Rhinoceros Vipers are inactive and appear “sluggish”, yet strike with amazing speed; their fangs and venom stores are among the snake-world’s largest. Their bulk renders handling with snake hooks especially difficult and dangerous.
Venomous snake species are not suitable as pets in private collections. It is impossible for a private snake owner to adequately prepare for or treat a venomous snakebite, or, prior to a bite, to arrange for treatment in a hospital.
Rhinoceros Vipers feed upon maned rats and other mammals, frogs, toads, and fish. Zoo specimens thrive on rats and mice.
The young, 20-45 in number, are born alive and average 8 inches in length. Little is known of the details of its reproductive biology.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
professionals, beautiful snake
nerve damage, highly venomous snake
ambush predators, loud hissing sound
As Deadly as it is Beautiful
With its unusually-thick body, amazing array of colors and patterns and “horns”, the rhinoceros viper is one of the world’s most stunning snakes. Unfortunately for prospective owners, it is also one of the most dangerous. Armed with large reserves of powerful venom and fangs that are among the snake world’s longest, it has no place in private collections. Its unique beauty and the danger aspect render it much in demand in certain sectors of our hobby but please resist any temptations you may have in this regard. The rhinoceros viper and its equally-attractive relative the Gaboon viper equally-attractive are difficult to work with even in well-run zoos, and quite delicate (looks aside!) as well.
It is impossible for a private snake owner to adequately prepare for or treat a venomous snakebite. Viper venom is far more complex than was once believed. Haemotoxins, which damage blood cells, blood vessels and body tissues, predominate in most that have been studied. However, all have neurotoxic components as well, along with the enzyme Hyaluronidase, which speeds venom diffusion.
Rhinoceros and Gaboon vipers are kept by many zoos – please limit your viper “interactions” to zoo visits, or prepare for a career as a professional zookeeper or herpetologist if you have a serious interest in venomous snakes..
From findiviglio Jan 17 2016 8:26PM