Herpetology of Ethiopia and Eritrea


Our records => Elapidae, Boie 1827


Dendroaspis polylepis GÜNTHER 1864


Short description:
A long snake, in proportion to the length of body slender, but muscular snake. The head long, "rectangular", The eyes big, pupil rounded. Typical is black-grey color inside the mouth. Body slightly dorsolateraly compressed, which is common in arboreal snakes. The tail 17 to 25% of the total length. Midbody scale rows 21-25, ventrals 236-263, subcaudals 107-129. Maximal length of about 400 cm, it is one of the longest venomous snakes of the world. The color grey - brown, grey, sometimes olive. The dorsal scales large and smooth. The belly lighter, cream, sometimes dark spotted.
Specimen from FMNH, Tana Lake, Ethiopia: Midbody scale-rows 23; ventrals 254; anal divided; subcaudals 113; labials 8, fourth below the eye; the large lower temporal reaches the lip on the left side but on the right is separated by horizontal division which forms a labial; the posterior upper temporal is vertically divided so that there are three temporals along the outer border of the parietal on either side. Total length of skin with head and tail attached 2,420 (1,900+520) mm. [according to LOVERIDGE as Dendraspis angusticeps].

Distribution:
Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Senegal, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Republic of South Africa, Somalia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, N/S Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), Zambia a Zimbabwe. In northern Ethiopia and in Eritrea throughout all the territory except hottest and driest areas and cold - wet mountain forests of the Ethiopian highlands.

Behavior:
The black mamba occurs in a variety of different habitats, including well-wooded savannah and riverine forest, particularly in areas with an abundance of rocky hills and large trees. It also inhabits coastal bush, moist and dry savannah and woodland. The female lays elongated eggs in size 65 x 30 mm, their number is usually from several pieces to 20. The eggs hatch after 80 to 90 days. The diet of the black mamba consists of warm-blooded prey such as bushbabies, rock hyraxes, bats and other small mammals, as well as birds. The black mamba is lethally venomous, and without treatment its bite can kill a human within 20 minutes. If cornered, the black mamba may adopt a defensive posture, raising its head, spreading its neck like a cobra, displaying its black mouth lining and hissing. If further provoked, it will strike repeatedly, injecting its attacker with large amounts of deadly neurotoxins and cardiotoxins, which affect the nerves and heart

Note:
From Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia is sometimes cited subspecies Dendroaspis polylepis antinori (PETERS, 1873) which is described from Anseba area (Ruba Anseba) in central Eritrea. But by some herpetologists is not considered as valid species. Therefore is sometimes considered as monotypic (BROADLEY & HOWELL 1991), and sometimes you can find this ssp. as valid species.

Description original:
Günther,A.: Report on a collection of reptiles and fishes made by Dr. Kirk in the Zambesi and Nyassa Regions. Proc. Zool. Soc. London 1864: 303-314 [310]

Common english name: Black Mamba



Elapsoidea laticincta (WERNER 1919)

Short description:
A small snake, which reaches length up to 60 cm. Ventrals 139 - 151 in males, 140 - 150 in females, subcaudals 20-25 in males, 13-19 in females, pale bands on body 8 - 17, bands usually with reticulate pattern, three lower labials in contact with each anterior sublingual, sixth supralabials usually in contact with lower postocular, 1 - 3 infralabials in contact with each anterior sublingual, scale row formula 13-13-13. The color dark grey or black with transverse pale bands. Underside white or yellow-brown.

Distribution:
SW Ethiopia, S Sudan, Uganda, N Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), Chad, Central African Republic, Cameroon

Behavior:
It inhabit moist and dry savanna, or mosaic forest-savannah at altitude 400-1000 m asl. They feed snakes, lizards and frogs. Oviparous. Mildly venomous, harmless to humans.

Description original:
Werner,F.: Wissenschaftliche Ergebnisse der mit Unterstützung der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien aus der Erbschaft Treitl von F. Werner unternommenen zoologischen Expedition nach dem Anglo-Aegyptischen Sudan (Kordofan) 1914. IV. Bearbeitung der Fische, Amphibien und Reptilien. Denkschr. Akad. Wiss Wien, Math.-Naturw. Klasse 96: 1-73? [452-509 fide ZR]

Common english name: Werner's Garter Snake




Elapsoidea loveridgei PARKER 1949

Short description:
A small snake, maximum legth of about 70 cm. The tail 6-9% of the total length. Scales smooth. Ventrals 151 - 167 in males, 151 - 171 in females, subcaudals in males 20 - 28, subcaudals in females 17 - 21, pale bands on body 23 - 35, pale bands on tail in males 3 - 6, in females 0 - 5. The pale bands well defined and white bordered in juveniles, usually marked as paired white transverse lines in adults, the first 1 - 6 pale bands narrowed than the rest, and most bands broader on flanks than dorsally, usually three lower labials in contact with each anterior sublingual, dorsal scale rows on neck 13, sixth supralabials usually not in contact with lover postocular. 1 - 3 infralabials in contact with each anterior subliblingual, scale row formula 13-13-13.

Distribution:
N/E Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), Kenya, Sudan, N Burundi, N Tanzania, Rwanda, S Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda.

Behavior:
It is found in savanna, grassland, forest-savanna, at 1000 - 2000 m asl. They feeds mainly frogs or snakes, sometimes larvae of beetles. Oviparous, females lays a small number of elongated eggs. Mildly venomous, harmless to humans.

Note:
In Ethiopia occurs ssp. Elapsoidea loveridgei multicincta (LAURENT 1956).

Description original:
Parker,H.W. The snakes of Somaliland and the Sokotra islands. Zool. Verh. Leiden 6: 1-115

Common english name: East African Garter Snake




Naja ashei WÜSTER & BROADLEY 2007


Short description:
A very large, "spitting" cobra, maximum length up to 280 cm. Previously considered to be color form of Naja nigricollis. The color is brown or red-brown, belly cream or light brown, at the bottom of the neck is darker. Midbody scale rows 20-23, ventrals in males 192 - 204, ventrals in females 194 - 207, subcaudals in males 57 - 65, in females 55 - 62. Preoculare 2/2, postoculare 2/2, supralabialia 6/6 the third contact eye, infralabialia 8/9. Rostrale 1,5 x wider than high, visible from the top view. The cobra is quite easily distinguishable from other species which occurring in this region.

Distribution:
Kenya, S Somalia, SE Ethiopia, NE Uganda, NE Tanzania ?. In Ethiopia the southern border area with Kenya and southern Somalia (Mago NP, Arbore, Moyale, Borana).

Behavior:
Occupies the lower areas from coastal plains to 1000 m asl. The primary habitat is a tree and bush savannah or semi-desert. Mostly terrestrial snake. They feed mainly rodents, birds and reptiles, including small monitors, and an important component of the diet consists from frogs even toads. The females lays about 20 elongated eggs in size 50 x 25 mm. Naja ashei can secrete prodigious quantities of venom. Highly venomous snake.

Note:
Bio-Ken (James Ashe)

Description original:
Wüster, W. & Broadley, D.G.: Get an eyeful of this: a new species of giant spitting cobra from eastern and north-eastern Africa (Squamata: Serpentes: Elapidae: Naja). Zootaxa 1532: 51–68

Our records:
Karo, Omo (Filipsky); Turmi (Filipsky)

Common english name: Ashe’s spitting cobra




Naja haje (LINNAEUS 1758)


Short description:
A large cobra with a wide distribution. Reaches length up to 250 cm, aprox. 150 cm. Tail 15-18% of the total length. The color variable, most often brown or gray, juveniles yellow-brown, slightly speckled in transverse strips. The belly cream to yellow, on the underside of neck broad darker band, which covering about 20 ventrals. Sometimes dark with yellow irregularly placed patches. The head big, from above darker, labials yellow. Pupil rounded. An important distinguishing feature from other East African cobras is presence of orbital scales which dividing orbit from supralabials. In other species some of supralabials in contact to the eye.

Distribution:
Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, N Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Yemen, Zimbabwe. In Ethiopia on whole teritory except high moist altitudes, cold mountains regions and hotest deserts. Common in Rift Valley, in Awash Park, to the north around Lake Tana to the borders with Eritrea. To the east, the border with Somalia and Djibouti. In Eritrea are the findings much more common.

Behavior:
This species does not spit venom. They occur in a wide variety of habitats like, steppes, dry to moist savannas, arid semi-desert regions with some water and vegetation. In the north, in Nubia and Egypt, always in vegetation strip along the Nile. Does not live in the desert. The Egyptian cobra is a terrestrial and crepuscular or nocturnal species. It can however, be seen basking in the sun at times in the early morning. This species shows a preference for a permanent home base in abandoned animal burrows, termite mounds or rock outcrops. It is an active forager sometimes entering human habitations, especially when hunting domestic fowl. Like other cobra species, it generally attempts to escape when approached, at least for a few metres, but if threatened it assumes the typical upright posture with the hood expanded and strikes. This species prefers to eat toads, but it will prey on small mammals, birds, eggs, lizards and other snakes In east Africa on highes altitudes about 1000 - 1800 m asl. The females lays 20 elongated eggs in size 60 x 35 mm. The venom affects the nervous system, stopping the nerve signals from being transmitted to the muscles and at later stages stopping those transmitted to the heart and lungs as well, causing death due to complete respiratory failure

Description original:
Linnaeus, C.: Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. Laurentii Salvii, Holmiæ. 10th Edition: 824 pp.

Common english name: Egyptian cobra




Naja melanoleuca HALLOWELL 1857

Short description:
Large sized cobra which reaches up to 220 cm, rarely up to 270 cm. Midbody scale rows 17-19, ventrals 197-226, subcaudals 55-74. Color very variable. One of the color forms is    black-yellow, when is dorsum black, the belly yellow with scattered black spots. On the underside of the "neck" two transverse black bands, the head black from above, rostrum and labials yellow with vertical black stripes. The second form is brown, the belly lighter and tiny black dotted, bands on the neck missing. The third form is brown with lighter transverse bands and tail is black. In Ethiopia occurs the first, yellow-black form.
Specimen from FMNH ("Belgian Congo"): Midbody scale-rows 19; ventrals 206; anal entire; subcaudals 59; labials 7, third and fourth entering the orbit. Total length 504 (425+79) mm [LOVERIDGE].

Distribution:
Sub-saharan Africa from west (Senegal, Guinea,..) to Somalia on east. South to Mosambique and Zambia, southwest to Angola. In Ethiopia southwest moist mosaic savanna and western highland forests (Gambella, Metu, Godare, Dimma..). There is a typical representative of the Central African and West African herpetofau-
na.

Behavior:
Naja melanoleuca are snakes that are well adapted to many environments and the habitat of the forest cobra is strongly dependent on what part of its African range the snake originates from. They are mainly found in the tropical and subtropical rainforest regions of west and central Africa. It also inhabits mangroves in western Africa. The banded form in west Africa lives in savanna and grassland (but usually along streams) and well vegetated areas, especially riverine forest. In western Kenya, the forest cobra has been found in wide stretched grassland areas. It is an agile, diurnal species that climbs well and is one of the most aquatic of the true cobras of the genus Naja. At rest it takes cover in holes, brush piles, hollow logs, among root clusters or in rock crevices, or in abandoned termite mounds at forest fringe or clearings. In certain areas, it hides along river banks, in overhanging root systems or bird holes, and in urban areas will hide in junk piles or unused buildings. Naja melanoleuca will feed on a wide variety of prey, including amphibians, fish, other snakes, monitor lizards and other lizards, bird eggs, rodents, and other small mammals. The females will lay between 11 and 26 elongate eggs, each size 30 x 60 mm.

Description original:
Hallowell,E.: Notes of a collection of reptiles from the Gaboon country, West Africa, recently presented to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, by Dr. Herny A. Ford. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia 9: 48-72

Our records:
Metu (Lizler);

Common english name: Forest cobra




Naja nigricollis REINHARDT 1843

Short description:
A medium sized cobra, reaches length up to 150 cm, one of so called "spitting" cobras. The dorsum dark to black or black-blue, belly gray to black. The large brown form, known from Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia is currently determined as a new species Naja ashei. Juveniles are colored more vividly, the body is grey, head and neck black. This color lost in size of about 100 cm. At the underside of the neck two transverse lighter stripes, which may sometimes be missing. The head big and broad, pupil rounded. Neck scale rows 17-23, Midbody scale rows 17-23, ventrals in males 185-209, ventrals in females 195-212, subcaudals in males 54-70, subcaudals in females 55-66.
Specimen from FMNH: Midbody scale-rows 19-21; ventrals 177-181; anal entire; subcaudals 54-62; labials 6, third entering the orbit. Largest specimen measures 1,395 (1,138+257) mm [LOVERIDGE].

Distribution:
Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire, except in the center), Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Mauritania, Sudan, Tanzania, Somalia, Togo, Uganda, Zambia Western Ethiopia (Blue Nile Valley, Baro, Didessa valley...).

Behavior:
Mostly terrestrial snake with diurnal or noctural activity, depending on the time of year. It feeds primarily on small rodents, such as small rats and mice, birds and fishes, but will eat lizards, eggs and other snakes. The females lays 8-20 elongate eggs 40 x 25 mm, incubation period 60 - 140 days.
When defending is able to spitting poison very accurately to the eye up a distance of up to 3 meters. It has 200 - 350 mg of poison, the lethal dose for humans is 40-50 mg. In contact with the eye can cause permanent blindness.

Description original:
Reinhardt, J. T.: Beskrivelse af nogle nye Slangearter. Danske Vidensk. Selsk. Afhandl. 10: 233-279.

Common english name: Black-necked Spitting Cobra




Naja pallida BOULENGER 1896

Naja pallida
Naja pallida, Mt.Fantale, Ethiopia Naja pallida, Mt.Fantale, Ethiopia Naja pallida, Mt.Fantale, Ethiopia Naja pallida, Mt.Fantale, Ethiopia

Short description:
A medium sized, nicely colored "spitting" cobra. Reaching lengths up to 150 cm, average 120 cm. The head is broad, flattened and slightly distinct from the neck. The tail 15-19% of the total length. Scales on body smooth, eye big, pupil rounded. Dorsal scales are smooth and strongly oblique. Number of transversal scales on neck 23-30, midbody scale rows 21-27, ventrals in males 192-218, ventrals in females 203-227. Subcaudals in males 56-81, subcaudals in females 57-72. Color red or red-brown, in some places greenish (see picture) or grey, on undersite of the neck one broad black transverse throat band. Some specimens may have two or three throat bands, but this is uncommon for specimens from East Africa. Originally described as Naja nigricollis var. pallida BOULENGER 1896, later as Naja mossambica pallida BROADLEY 1968. Afterwards, has been described as separate species Naja pallida HUGHES 1983. In 2003 has been describet from the "pallida complex" new species Naja nubiae WÜSTER & BROADLEY, 2003, resp. Naja (Afronaja) nubiae — WALLACH et al. 2009.

Distribution:
Naja pallida is mainly found in East Africa, including Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, southern Egypt, northern and eastern Ethiopia, and northern Tanzania and northern Sudan. It is also widespread in the dry country of eastern and northern Kenya. It primarily inhabits dry savanna and semidesert areas of East Africa up to an elevation of about 1,200 m asl. In Ethiopia south, south east and central in Awash basin.

Behavior:
Terrestrial, fast and alert snakes. Adult specimens of this species are nocturnal, while juveniles are more active during the day. Adults like to hide in termite mounds, old logs, holes, brush piles or any other ground cover during the day. When threatened, this cobra rears up and displays a typical cobra hood. It may also hiss loudly. If the intruder does not retreat, it may spray jets of venom to the face of the intruder. Venom in the eyes can cause burning pain and blindness. Even so, this snake seldom causes fatalities in humans. This species has a wide range of prey, but they prefer amphibians such as toads and frogs, if and when they are available. However, they will prey on rodents, birds.

Description original:
Boulenger, G.A. Catalogue of the snakes in the British Museum, Vol. 3. London (Taylor & Francis), xiv + 727 pp.

Common english name: Red Spitting Cobra




Naja nubiae WÜSTER & BROADLEY, 2003


Short description:
Relatively newly described cobra species , separated from the relatives line of the species Naja pallida with which is closely genetically related. The upperparts of the Nubian spitting cobra are brownish-grey, with black bases to the scales, while the underparts are a lighter buff colour and have a yellowish tint towards the rear of the body. There is a very faint dark speckling along the middle of the belly. The Nubian spitting cobra is also distinguished by a throat pattern consisting of two to three dark bands, some of which cross the neck immediately behind the head to form a forward-pointing chevron on the back of the neck. Neck scale rows 23-29, Midbody scale rows 23-27, ventrals 207-226, subcaudals 58-72, preoculare 1-2, postoculare 3(2), supralabials 7 (6-8), infralabials 8-9(10). In some specimens of N.nubiae (but also N.pallida) the third supralabiale bordered the eye and nasale, but usually is the third supralabial small and from eye and nasale is separated by big preoculare. Anal scute undivided, subcaudals paired. Rostral shield wider than high, praefrontale bigger than internasale. Frontale longer than broad. Reaches length up to 150 cm, usually smaller. Holotype 788 mm, tail 134 mm, head 30 mm.

Distribution:
Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger and Eritrea. In Eritrea (Assab, Tessenei), very likely northern and north-east Ethiopia.

Behavior:
The most commonly documented habitats of the Nubian spitting cobra are in arid regions, including dry savanna and semi-desert. Along the Nile Valley, the Nubian spitting cobra lives in low vegetation. A ground-dwelling species, this snake typically hides in holes, brush piles or under other ground cover during the day, and if disturbed will raise the front part of its body and spread its ‘hood’. The Nubian spitting cobra is thought to be a good swimmer. Like other spitting cobras, the Nubian spitting cobra has the ability to ‘spit’ or squirt venom at potential attackers. Highly venomous. They prey on amphibians, rodents, birds and possibly other snakes.

Description original:
Wüster, W. & Broadley, D.G. A new species of spitting cobra (Naja) from north-eastern Africa (Serpentes: Elapidae). J. Zool., Lond. 259: 345–359

Common english name: Nubian Spitting Cobra























































world map hits counter
map counter