Hairy Bush Viper

Hairy bush viper is a venomous grass snake belonging to family of Viperidae in the kingdom of Animalia. It has keeled dorsal scales which makes the species appear bristly. Its scientific name is Atheris hispida. The common names for this snake are spiny bush viper, African hairy-bush viper and rough scaled tree viper in several parts of africa.

It is commonly found in Congo, western parts of south Uganda and western Kenya. It can also be found in some parts of West Africa in Tai national part of Ivory Coast and areas around the park about 7km in south direction. Currently information about its population is not known as the snake is rare and sparsely distributed. The conservation measures are still not determined, however, in Tai national park the species survives well.

Description of the snake

Male snakes from this group of vipers grow up to a maximum length of 73cm, with a body of 58cm and a tail of 15cm, on the other hand, female snakes grow up to 58cm in length. Males are slender and longer in comparison to females.

Its head has short snout and round eyes. The eyes are covered by about nine to sixteen circumorbital scales. As a predator, its eyes gives it a wide view of the surrounding to identify prey.

The body of hairy bush viper is covered by elongated and keeled dorsal scales that makes the snake appear shaggy, or bristly. Its scales are long on the neck and the length decreases towards its tail. It has only one anal scale. The characteristics of this snake are almost similar to Atheris hirsute and one should be careful not to confuse them.

This snake is a carnivore feeding on small reptiles like frogs and lizards, mammals and partly birds. It has color camouflage which enables it to hunt for prey easily both on trees and grass.

During reproduction, a female of this snake will give birth to as many as 12 newborns at a time which are about 15cm in length.

The venom of this viper is extremely fatal to human beings unless very good first aid measures by a qualified or experienced person followed by antivenom medication procedures are taken immediately after a bite.

Reports that have been collected from people who have had hairy bush viper bite show that the venom causes internal organs to have severe hemorrhaging. The venom contains the following toxic contents:

The toxicity of the viper will vary amongst the subspecies according to the following factors:

The toxicity of the snake has only been known lately, may be because they are not very common species and they live in forests.

Some people believe hairy bush viper is a very beautiful grass snake because of the way its scales are arranged over the entire body and its multi-color. This snake likes climbing on reeds and stalks of trees. It spends much of its time basking on tree tops on flowers and terminals of leaves.