Puff Adders Mating in the Kruger National Park

May 27 2015

What an unbelievable but rare sighting of a snake commonly found in grasslands and savannah all across Africa.  Although widely distributed, they are generally difficult to spot based on their camouflage! We chat more to Johan van Zyl, expert guide & wildlife photographer at  regarding puff adders and what one can expect…

TB: Is there an easy way to identify a puff adder?
JvZ: They can easily be identified by their diamond shaped head.  They are also short, fat snakes and normally a yellow/brown to orange/brown in colour, although sometimes a light brown to grey in colour with distinct chevron like markings over their back.

TB: How big do puff adders get?
JvZ: In South Africa, adults average approximately 90cm, but they have been known to get up to 1,4 meters in size.  In Kenya specimens of over 1,8 meters have been recorded, making it Africa's largest adder.

TB: Can you describe the mating & reproduction process?
JvZ: Females will produce a pheromone that attracts different males.  Several males will then follow the scent of that single female and will engage in wrestling. The result is the strongest male will mate with the female.  The female will give birth to live young which is known as viviparous, where the egg hatches within the uterus and can birth up to 80 young!  A Kenyan puff adder in captivity was once recorded giving birth to 156 young, the largest litter for any species of snake.

TB: Are they aggressive in nature?
JvZ: Puff adders are not aggressive snakes and are known to remain very still instead of moving away if approached (unlike the majority of snakes.)  Puff adders will give a load hissing sound when approached or irritated.  Most snake bites occur due to people standing on them, and most often while the snake is baking in the sun. 

TB: Should one be concerned if bitten, I mean are they very poisonous?
JvZ: They are indeed venomous and contain cytotoxic venom which means it damages your tissue cells.  It is a very painful bite and one that will most likely end in the loss of a limb. Therefore it is important to find medical attention as quickly as possible

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