What Snakes Are Found in Rwanda: A Guide to Rwanda’s Snake Species

Rwanda is home to a diverse range of snake species. While it is impossible to list every snake found in the country, this article will focus on the five most common snakes encountered in Rwanda. These snakes include the Puff Adder, Spotted Bush Snake, Red-lipped Snake, Central African Rock Python, and Brown House Snake. Each snake has unique characteristics, habitats, and behaviors that are important to understand for those living or traveling in Rwanda.

Key Takeaways:

  • Rwanda is home to a diverse range of snake species
  • The Puff Adder is the most dangerous snake in Rwanda
  • The Spotted Bush Snake is a harmless and beautiful snake found in Rwanda
  • The Red-lipped Snake is a colorful resident of Rwanda
  • The Central African Rock Python is Rwanda’s giant constrictor

The Puff Adder: Rwanda’s Most Dangerous Snake

The Puff Adder (Bitis arietans) is the most dangerous snake species found in Rwanda. It is commonly found in savannas, grasslands, and even densely populated areas. The Puff Adder is known for its hissing warning, inflating itself when threatened. Its venom is highly potent and contains a cytotoxin that can be lethal to humans. It is important to watch your step and avoid this snake at all costs due to its aggressive nature and venomous bite.

The Puff Adder is easily identifiable with its stocky build, broad triangular head, and distinctive zigzag pattern on its back. Its coloration varies, ranging from light brown to dark brown or reddish-brown, allowing it to blend into its surrounding environment. On average, it can grow up to 1.2 meters in length, although some specimens have been recorded to reach up to 1.8 meters.

Encounters with the Puff Adder should be taken seriously and caution should be exercised when venturing into its habitat. If bitten, immediate medical attention is crucial as the venom can cause tissue damage, severe pain, and other complications. To minimize the risk of encountering this dangerous snake, it is advisable to stay on designated paths, wear protective clothing, and remain vigilant when exploring areas where the Puff Adder is known to reside.

Puff Adder Characteristics
Scientific Name: Bitis arietans
Length: Average 1.2 meters, up to 1.8 meters
Habitat: Savannas, grasslands, and populated areas
Diet: Small mammals, birds, frogs, and lizards
Venom: Highly potent cytotoxin
Behavior: Aggressive when threatened, hisses and inflates body

Protecting Yourself from the Puff Adder

To minimize the risk of encountering the Puff Adder in Rwanda, it is important to take certain precautions. Here are some tips to help you stay safe:

  • Stay on designated paths and avoid venturing off into tall grass or dense vegetation where snakes may be hiding.
  • Wear protective clothing such as long pants, closed-toe shoes, and gloves if necessary.
  • Be mindful of your surroundings and watch your step, especially when walking in areas known to have a high snake population.
  • Avoid walking outside at night when snakes are more active.
  • Do not attempt to handle or provoke snakes, even if they appear non-threatening.

By following these guidelines and being aware of the presence of the Puff Adder, you can help ensure your safety and minimize the risk of snakebite while in Rwanda.

The Spotted Bush Snake: A Harmless Beauty

Spotted Bush Snake in Rwanda

The Spotted Bush Snake (Philothamnus semivariegatus) is a non-venomous snake commonly found in forested areas and suburban gardens in Rwanda. With its beautiful patterns, small head, and golden yellow eyes, the Spotted Bush Snake is a truly captivating creature. It adds to the rich biodiversity of Rwanda’s natural habitats and plays an important role in maintaining ecological balance.

This snake is a patient hunter, primarily preying on lizards, geckos, and frogs. Its slender body allows it to navigate through even the densest vegetation with ease. The Spotted Bush Snake is easily alarmed and will quickly flee when it senses danger. While it poses no threat to humans, it is crucial to give it space and let it find its way out if it happens to enter your home.

Snake Species Characteristics Habitat Behavior
Spotted Bush Snake Beautiful patterns, small head, golden yellow eyes Forested areas and suburban gardens Patient hunter, preys on lizards, geckos, and frogs

With its graceful movements and harmless nature, the Spotted Bush Snake is a true testament to the beauty and diversity of Rwanda’s snake species. By appreciating and understanding the role these snakes play in the ecosystem, we can coexist with them safely and contribute to the conservation efforts aimed at protecting their habitats.

The Red-lipped Snake: A Colorful Resident of Rwanda

The Red-lipped Snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia) is another fascinating snake species found in Rwanda. Known for its vibrant colors and distinctive red upper lip, this non-venomous snake adds a splash of beauty to the country’s wildlife. With olive green or gray coloration, the Red-lipped Snake can be found near marshlands, bogs, lowland forests, and even suburban areas after rainfall.

Active primarily at night, the Red-lipped Snake preys on amphibians, making it an important predator for maintaining the balance of the local ecosystem. While its venom is mild and poses no threat to humans, it is always best to respect this snake’s space and refrain from provoking it.

Characteristics of the Red-lipped Snake

If you encounter a Red-lipped Snake in Rwanda, it’s essential to be able to identify it accurately. Here are some key characteristics to look out for:

  • Distinctive red upper lip
  • Olive green or gray coloration
  • Medium-sized snake, typically reaching lengths of up to 120 cm
  • Active primarily at night
  • Preys on amphibians

Conservation of the Red-lipped Snake in Rwanda

Although the Red-lipped Snake is not endangered, it is still essential to protect its natural habitat and ensure its continued presence in Rwanda. Deforestation and habitat destruction pose significant threats to the species, making conservation efforts crucial.

By raising awareness about the Red-lipped Snake and promoting its conservation, we can contribute to the overall preservation of Rwanda’s diverse snake populations and the delicate balance of its ecosystems.

Snake Species Venomous Habitat Prey
Red-lipped Snake No Marshlands, bogs, lowland forests, suburban areas Amphibians

The Central African Rock Python: Rwanda’s Giant Constrictor

The Central African Rock Python (Python sebae) is the largest snake species found in Rwanda. With impressive lengths reaching up to 750 cm, this python is truly a giant among snakes. Although non-venomous, it possesses incredible strength and is a highly efficient constrictor.

These majestic pythons can be found in a variety of habitats in Rwanda, including bodies of water, forests, savannas, swamps, and semi-deserts. They are skilled swimmers and climbers, adapting well to their surroundings. Their diet consists primarily of small to medium-sized mammals, such as antelopes and rodents.

It is crucial to respect the space of the Central African Rock Python and maintain a safe distance. While they generally avoid human encounters, they may feel threatened if cornered or provoked. By giving these magnificent creatures the space they need, we can coexist peacefully and appreciate their vital role in Rwanda’s diverse ecosystem.

Snake Species Length Habitat Prey
Central African Rock Python Up to 750 cm Bodies of water, forests, savannas, swamps, and semi-deserts Small to medium-sized mammals

The Brown House Snake: A Common Visitor

The Brown House Snake (Boaedon fuliginosus) is one of the most common snakes in Rwanda. It is known for its adaptability and can be found in various habitats, including forests, grasslands, and suburban areas. This species is often encountered near human settlements, where it seeks shelter and food sources.

The Brown House Snake is non-venomous and poses no threat to humans. It plays a beneficial role in controlling populations of pests like mice, making it a welcome visitor to many households. However, it is important to handle this snake with care and respect its natural behavior.

If you happen to encounter a Brown House Snake in your home or garden, it is best to leave it undisturbed. The snake will find its way out on its own and does not pose any danger. Removing the snake may disrupt its natural role in the ecosystem and lead to imbalances in the local environment.

Table: Common Snakes in Rwanda

Snake Species Habitat Behavior Venomous
Puff Adder Savannas, grasslands, populated areas Aggressive, venomous bite Yes
Spotted Bush Snake Forested areas, suburban gardens Timid, non-venomous No
Red-lipped Snake Marshlands, lowland forests, suburban areas Mildly venomous, colorful No
Central African Rock Python Bodies of water, forests, savannas, swamps Powerful constrictor, non-venomous No
Brown House Snake Forests, grasslands, suburban areas Non-venomous, common visitor No

How to Identify Snakes in Rwanda

Identifying snakes in Rwanda is crucial for personal safety and conservation efforts. By familiarizing ourselves with the unique features, coloration, and patterns of snake species, we can better understand their behavior and know how to respond in encounters. Here are some tips to help you identify snakes in Rwanda:

1. Use Field Guides and Online Resources

Field guides and online databases dedicated to snake identification are valuable resources. These references provide detailed descriptions, images, and range maps that can assist you in identifying snake species accurately. Online platforms often offer forums and expert advice, allowing you to seek further clarification.

2. Pay Attention to Physical Characteristics

Snakes have distinct physical characteristics that can aid in identification. Take note of features such as head shape, body coloration, scale patterns, and eye shape. Characteristics like a triangular-shaped head may indicate a venomous snake, while round pupils usually indicate non-venomous species.

3. Consider Geographic Location and Habitat

Understanding the geographic distribution and preferred habitats of different snake species can narrow down identification possibilities. Some species may be more likely to be found in specific regions or environments. Cross-referencing the snake’s appearance and habitat with available resources can help you make a more accurate identification.

Snake Species Physical Characteristics Preferred Habitat
Puff Adder Triangular head, diamond-shaped patterns Savannas, grasslands, and populated areas
Spotted Bush Snake Small head, green coloration, spotted pattern Forested areas, suburban gardens
Red-lipped Snake Olive green or gray coloration, red upper lip Marshlands, bogs, lowland forests
Central African Rock Python Large size, dark scales with light patterns Bodies of water, forests, savannas
Brown House Snake Brown coloration, slender body Varying habitats, including human dwellings

Remember, it is essential to observe snakes from a safe distance and avoid any attempts to handle or provoke them. If you are unsure of a snake’s identity or encounter a snake in a potentially dangerous situation, it is best to contact local wildlife authorities for assistance. By respecting and appreciating the diverse snake species in Rwanda, we can contribute to their conservation and coexist with these fascinating creatures.


Rwanda boasts a remarkable snake diversity, with a range of species that contribute to the country’s unique ecosystem. From the dangerous Puff Adder to the harmless Spotted Bush Snake, each snake has its place in the natural habitats of Rwanda. By understanding and appreciating these creatures, we can coexist with them safely and protect their habitats.

Our snake species guide provides valuable insights into the characteristics, habitats, and behaviors of Rwanda’s snakes. Armed with this knowledge, individuals can navigate their surroundings with confidence and respect for these often misunderstood reptiles.

Through raising awareness and promoting education about Rwanda’s snake species, we can foster a greater appreciation for the snake diversity in the country. By doing so, we contribute to the preservation of Rwanda’s rich natural heritage and ensure a harmonious coexistence with these fascinating creatures.