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Bush vipers belong to the genus Atheris, and there are many species within that genus. Today we’re going to be talking about 12 of those species. While there are more species we didn’t include, we chose not to include them this time as we could not find much information or any photos on them.
These snakes often are compared to dragons or other magical creatures, due to their gorgeous keeled scales that look a lot like leaves. These scales not only look very cool, but they help the snake blend into their surroundings. So, let’s get into the awesome species of the Atheris genus!
Top 10 List
1. Variable Bush Viper (Atheris squamigera)
The first of the bush vipers on our list is the variable bush viper, which is also known as the common bush viper, or the African bush viper. If you want to know more about them we have a list dedicated to them here.
The variable Bush viper is a venomous snake that can be found in west and Central Africa only. These beautiful vipers have the keeled scales that are common for bush vipers, and also come in many gorgeous colorations. From olive greens, to slate gray, blue, oranges, yellows and reds, there are more colours able to be found than not.
The variable bush viper is commonly around 1.5 feet – 2 feet in length, however, some have been recorded at almost 3 feet long.
2. Spiny Bush Viper (Atheris hispida)
This beautiful snake goes by a few different names, including: rough-scaled bush viper, spiny bush viper, hairy bush viper, rough-scaled tree viper, African hairy bush viper, and hairy viper. It got these names due to their extremely keeled scales that stick out and have an almost “hairy” or spiny appearance. These gorgeous snakes are found in Central Africa.
The hairy bush vipers are a beautiful mix of green colours, with some tips of the scales being darker. The males grow up to 29 inches in length, while the females only grow to around 23 inches. The males are also typically more slender then the females, with a shorter, rounder snout.
3. Uzungwe Bush Viper (Atheris barbouri)
The next bush viper on our list is another one with many common names. These names are: Uzungwe viper, Barbour’s viper, worm-eating viper, Barbour’s short-headed viper, Udzungwa viper, short-headed viper, and Uzungwe mountain bush viper. They can be found in the Uzungwe and Ukinga mountains of south-central Tanzania, which is found in Africa.
This species is a small one as far as bush vipers go, with a total length of only 16 inches. They are a range of brown to blackish-brown in colour, and have the typical keeled scales that bush vipers have. They also have large, round eyes, and a triangular head.
4. Cameroon Bush Viper (Atheris broadleyi)
This species of bush viper is an absolutely gorgeous one, but not much information is available on them. They are referred to as either the Cameroon bush viper, or Broadley’s bush viper. These vipers can be found in Cameroon (East Province) and Central African Republic, which is again, in Africa. Cameroon bush vipers are one of the longer bush vipers, coming in at around 30 inches.
5. Usumbara Bush Viper (Atheris ceratophora)
This next beautiful bush viper goes by the common names: Usambara bush viper, horned bush viper, eyelash bush viper, Usambara mountain bush viper, horned tree viper, Usambara tree viper.
As well as the beautiful raised scales, these gorgeous vipers have 3 – 5 protrusions above their eyes, which resemble horns. The base colour of their scales can be a yellow, yellow green, or olive colour, with various black markings on top. This time the female vipers are longer than the males, coming in at 21 inches, while the males only grow to around 17 inches.
6. West African Bush Viper (Atheris clorechis)
West African bush vipers, or west African leaf viper, are a gorgeous viper from, you guessed it, Western Africa.
These vipers are a light green colour all over, with faint light yellow spots running down their back. When the babies are first born, they are a tan brown colour, but within 24 hours they change into a yellow-green colour. The west African bush vipers have keeled scales, a relatively slim body, and a long tail. Their body length can be anywhere between 20 – 28 inches.
7. Mount Kenya Bush Viper (Atheris desaixi)
The next bush viper goes by these names: Mount Kenya bush viper, Ashe’s bush viper, and Desaix’s bush viper. As one of their common names suggests, they can be found in two populations in Kenya, one of which being on Mount Kenya.
Mount Kenya bush vipers are on average 16 – 24 inches in length, however some have been recorded at up to 28 inches long. Their gorgeous scales are a green-ish black to charcoal black colour, with pale yellow tipping each scale. Some scales have more yellow than others, giving the colouration of the snake an almost swirly pattern.
8. Tai Hairy Bush Viper (Atheris hirsuta)
The Tai hairy bush viper, not to be confused with the hairy bush viper, is only found in the Tai National Park in the southwestern Ivory Coast.
Very few of these snakes have been found or photographed, and not much information is available on them either. However, they do seem to closely resemble Atheris hispida (Hairy bush viper), and appear to be a medium brown in colour, with very keeled scales.
9. Mount Mabu Forest Viper (Atheris mabuensis)
The Mount Mabu forest viper can be found only on Mount Mabu, Mozambique, which is located is Southeast Africa. They were discovered recently, in 2006 by Dr. Julian Bayliss. The keeled scales common to bush vipers are prominent, and various browns mix together to create a gorgeous pattern on the snake, with golden looking eyes.
10. Matilda’s Horned Viper (Atheris matildae)
An even more recently discovered snake, Matilda’s horned viper was discovered in the Southern highlands of Tanzania during a biological survey. The exact location won’t be disclosed to the public as illegal collection for the pet trade is a huge concern. A captive breeding colony has already been established to help protect the population.
They highly resemble the Usumbara bush viper that was described above, and is the second and only other bush viper with “horns” above their eyes. Despite their similarities, Atheris ceratophora and Atheris matildae are different snakes.
11. Great Lakes Bush Viper (Atheris nitschei)
The next bush viper on the list is the Great Lakes bush viper, who also goes by the names Nitsche’s bush viper, black and green bush viper, Nitsche’s tree viper, and sedge viper. They can be found throughout various parts of Africa, including forests of the Central African Albertine Rift, and in eastern DR Congo, Uganda, western Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi.
The Great Lakes Bush Vipers are a relatively large bush viper, growing around 25 – 29 inches in length. They are a gorgeous olive green colour, with various black markings running down their body.
12. Rungwe Bush Viper (Atheris rungweensis)
And last but not least is the Rungwe bush viper, a unique looking bush viper from Africa, more specifically in Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi.
They are another longer viper, with an average length of around 26 inches. They are a mix of various greens, with black splotches, and yellow zigzag like patterns down the body. The younger vipers are a dark brown or grey colour, with a yellow tipped tail, and will eventually grow into the adult colouration.
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