Are there snakes on Mount Kilimanjaro?

Yes, though very rare, there have been a few sightings of snakes on Mount Kilimanjaro and its vicinity.

Since the trails leading to the summit are much frequented by climbers, snakes do not expose themselves because they are sensitive to movement. It is almost impossible to spot snakes on the mountain also bearing in mind that the upper attitudes bear harsh conditions such that they cannot support animal life.

Chances are, even the most experienced guides that trod the Kilimanjaro trails every now and then, have never seen snakes on the mountain with their naked eyes.

The base of the mountain, the rainforest zone in particular, is home to a few snake species like the Gabon, Green Mamba, Boomslang, and the Twig Snake.

Snake on Mount KilimanjaroBelow are some of the recorded species of snakes found on and around Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

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Gabon or Gaboon Viper

The Gabon or Gaboon Viper, of the family Viperidae, uses camouflage as its strong point to blend into its natural environment of scattered leaves on the floor of the forest

The Gaboon viper is an extremely venomous snake but normally docile and like staying on the ground amongst fallen leaves.

The snake is the heaviest venomous snake in Africa with an average weight of 8 kg (18 pounds), and it grows to a length of 2 metres (7 feet).

The other noticeable feature on the Gaboon Viper is the fangs which are long, in fact, the longest of any snake in the world measuring 5 centimetres ( 2 inches) in length.  It boasts the longest fangs, up to 5 cm (2 in) in length.  Their cream coloured heads are huge and shaped in a triangular shape with a narrow neck that is about 1/3 the width of the head in comparison to the head.  They appear to have horns between their erect nostrils and two lines of rectangular-shaped stripes behind and below the eyes.

Subrectangular patches run parallelly between dark, yellow stroked hourglass markings in the middle of the Gaboon viper’s back.

Gabon Vipers diet features a variety of birds and mammals like as doves and rats.

Their hunting style is fascinating and different from the other snake species as they hold on to their prey and wait on it to pass out and die rather than releasing it. Gaboon vipers rarely bite people as they not aggressive, they prefer to stay docile on the ground.

Green Mamba

The Green Mamba, otherwise known as the Eastern Green Mamba, Common Mamba, or White Mouthed Mamba, is a large-sized, elusive, venomous, that prefers spending most of its time on top of trees and staying away from humans due to its shy nature, belongs to the family Elapidae.

Females green mambas are usually longer than males with a mean length of up to 2 meters (6.6 feet) while the male counterparts measure up to 1.8 meters (5.9 feet).  Green Mambas have compressed heads followed by slender bodies and medium to moderately long tapering tails.  Their relatively long fangs can rotate on their axis with the prefrontal bone giving more control over their movement.  Bright green scales cover them dorsally, and yellow-green scales cover them ventrally.   Sometimes, they have a few scattered yellow scales along their flanks.

Green mamba snakes prey on birds, eggs, bats, and a variety of rodents.  This swift climber snake blends with the green nature and environment of the trees thanks to its well-suited camouflage. One of the only and few times that they can be found on the ground is when they are looking for water due to thirst, when they want to bask in the sun or when they are stalking prey.   Green mambas are non-nocturnal by nature as they rest on branches or holes on trees at night time.  They share the same scientific family, Elapidae with the black mamba but they are far apart in nature as the green mamba is always shy and elusive.

Green Mambas are swift, moving at a speed of 7mph (11 kph) therefore it is not easy to spot or catch them. They also blend in the green environment very well due to their green colour.

Green viper Kilimanjaro snake

Boomslang

The Boomslang is a highly venomous snake that spends much of its time on top of trees and belongs to the scientific family Colubridae. The boomslang is the ultimate tree snake hence the nickname. Boomslang is an Afrikaan name for “tree snake

A full-grown boomslang can measure between 100-160 cm (3 1/4-5 1/4 feet and 183 cm (6 feet) or even more.  They might be very long but pretty light, with a mere weight of 175-510 g (.386-1.124 lbs).  Their heads are oval in shape with large eyes that favour their sharp eyesight.  Males’ boomslangs are green with black, or blue scale edges while females are fully brown in colour.

They prey on small reptiles like chameleons, lizards, and frogs while sometimes they go for small mammals, eggs, birds. Reclusive by nature, they normally go into hibernation during the cold seasons.

Boomslang snake Kilimanjaro

African Vine or Twig Snake

The African Twig, Vine or Bird Snake belongs to the scientific family of Colubridae just like the Boomslang snake.  like the Boomslang, is from the family Colubridae.  They are slim and have extended profiles, flattened heads this pointed nostrils and long tails. They are greyish brown in colour and have blotches that are faint light and others dark.

African twig snakes are also elusive and their diet consists of frogs, lizards and birds.

It is very rare to encounter a snake on your Kilimanjaro climb, chances are almost zero but if you do, let it be.

Twig snake Kilimanjaro

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