Hids and Decorations
When keeping any venomous snake I suggest keeping the decorations in the cage to a minimum. I
like to see where the sharp end of the snake is at all times. Gaboons do not need a hide spot if they are being kept on a natural substrate because they get enough security just by shuffling their way under the mulch or whatever natural bedding you use. If you opt to use paper towels you should offer some sort of hide spot.
There are a lot of FALSE statements flying around the internet and other sourses, about the “tameness” and “placidness” of the gaboon viper. They are by NO means tame. A gaboon viper can
lure you into thinking they are tame because of their “laziness”. As mentioned before the are an ambush predator and that is the nature of the beast. They will bite if you put yourself within its strike range. Gaboons are some of the hardest, fastest striking snakes in the world and they can do it from any position they are laying in. Their agility is unbelievable. Their strike can be almost acrobatic.Their accuracy is scary. In all of my years of keeping venomous snakes I have never seen one miss its intended target.
No venomous snake should ever be handled without the proper tools. Hooks are a must when handling the gaboon viper. A large animal up to 2 feet will ride a single hook without much fuss. Adults should be handled with two hooks to avoid breaking ribs and huge adults should be handled with hooks that have a wide surface area like the MidWest custom python hook. Inexperienced handlers should never attempt to tail a gaboon. They can strike back over their bodies. Another tool that aids in the handling these guys especially when giving meds and force feeding are clear tubes. They are perfect for when a situation calls for a more hands on approach.. Trap boxes are also suggested.
Bitis Gabonica Venom
Gaboon venom contains:
- Procoagulants (fibrinogenasas)
- Anticoagulants (not specified)
- Heamorrhagins (zinc metalloproteinase)
- Cardiotoxins (not specified)
- Necrotoxins (not specified)
- Neurotoxins (not specified)
- Cytotoxins (not specified)
Gaboon vipers can deliver severe envenomations and have a high lethality potential. Rate of envenomation is between 60% to 80%. Untreated lethality rate is unknown but most likely very high.
Local effects include pain, severe swelling, bruising, blistering and bleeding. Local necrosis can be moderate to severe. General effects include headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dizziness, collapsing, and convulsions.
A bite also causes minor neurotoxic paralysis.
Coagulopathy and hemorrhages are very common causing internal bleeding which is one of the major clinical effects. Cardio toxicity is also a major clinical effect. Shock secondary to fluid shifts due to local tissue damage is likely in severe cases.
Info on the venom content was taken from the WHC Clinical Toxicology Resources.
An LD50 of 12.5 and a venom yield of up to 600mg makes this a very serious species as far as a bite goes. Lucky for us they are not very aggressive and when handled correctly bites are not too common. Antivenin should be kept on site when maintaining exotic venomous species. AV used for gaboon bites is called SAIMR polyvent. From experience I know that gaboon vipers have an immunity to their own venom. One of my females bit a male during feeding. There was clear signs of an envenomation at first. The male suffered nothing more than a swollen head and this subsided after a few days and some cleaning up of the wounds.
The gaboon viper is not a snake to be kept by the beginner or inexperienced venomous snake keeper. They can be extremely dangerous in the wrong hands and should only be left to the experience hot keepers.
All of this info can be used to keep the East African gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica gabonica). Their captive requirements are exactly the same and East African gaboon vipers will thrive under these same guide lines.
Please not that this care sheet is in no way condoning the keeping of the gaboon viper or any venomous snake. The info was simply posted for those experienced enough to competently and safely maintain the gaboon viper in a captive situation.