Namaqua dwarf adder (Bitis schneideri)

GenusBitis (1)
SizeLength: up to 28 cm (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) by the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

The Namaqua dwarf adder is the smallest venomous snake in the world (3), reaching a maximum length of just 28 centimetres (2). A true viper, this unusual snake is a member of the Viperidae family, which contains true vipers (Viperinae) and pit vipers (Crotalinae) (2). All members of the family Viperidae have broad triangular shaped heads and heavy bodies that feature many scales (2). They have long hinged, hollow fangs that allow them to inject venom into their victims; when not in use, these fangs fold back and rest against the roof of the mouth (2).

Found in South Africa from Hondeklip Bay north to south western Namibia, where it occurs south of the Namib Desert (4).

Found in semi-stable dunes, mainly in coastal areas (3) (4).

Very little is known of this rare species. Members of the Viperidae family tend to be active at night. They hunt for small mammals, birds and other small vertebrates. Species belonging to the genus Bitis are viviparous (2).

The predominant threat to this species’ survival in the wild has been the mining activities on the coast of South Africa and Namibia (4). It has also been collected heavily for the pet trade, with 200 known to have been taken recently from the Port Nolloth area in Namaqualand, in the northwest of South Africa (4).

All reptiles are protected in South Africa, with a strict permit system in force, even for biological field research. However, illegal collecting is difficult to control (4).

For more information on Viperids see:

Authenticated (15/12/2005) by Dr. Tony Phelps, Squamate Ecologist and founder of the Cape Reptile Institute.

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2010)