Rhino Viper

Another beautiful example of the bitis family is the Rhino Viper. Coloration can vary quite a bit but some are brightly colored with bright blues, greens, reds and yellows. Like the gaboon viper, in the wild, they blend in perfectly with the ground and vegetation. Rhino vipers commonly reach sizes of 3 and a half feet but there have been individuals recorded well over 4 feet. They have good sized fangs. Like most bitis species, they are ambush predators…. They sit and wait for a rodent or other prey item to cross their path. Their habitat consists of dense forested areas, swamps and around rivers. Another common name for the rhino viper is “The river jack”.

The rhino viper inhabits Benin, The Congo, Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Rwanda, Nigeria, The Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Leone, Sudan, Togo, Cabina, and Tanzania.

The rhino viper can be a very rewarding species to keep but the captive requirement are a bit different than that of the gaboon viper. Like the gaboon viper correct temperature and humidity must be maintained and checked every day in order for them to thrive in a captive situation.

The average temps required for the rhino viper are somewhat on the cool side. In some parts of their range, the rhino viper will almost never see direct sun light. Rhinos do not do well in the heat. If the temps get too high for a long period of time they will die as a result.

The cool end of the cage should average between 70 and 75 degrees. The warm end should average between 75 and 80 degrees. Like the gaboon viper, you can allow the temps to drop 5 to 8 degrees at night. The use of light bulbs would be my choice to properly maintain daytime heat and night time cooling. You should offer them a basking spot but chances are they will never use it.

Rhino vipers like humidity levels to be on the high side. They do well with levels maintained between 70% to 80%. Keeping a large water basin in the cage is a good idea. Like the gaboon viper, you can allow the humidity to drop if you will be cycling them for breeding. Proper ventilation and air circulation is a must when maintaining a rhino viper. They can be very prone to upper respiratory infections and scale rot.

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The rhino viper does a better job of keeping itself hydrated than the gaboon viper does. You will find that rhino vipers tend to soak in their water dishes often. They drink from water dishes usually without a problem. Weekly soaks and misting the cage twice a week is still a must. Also injecting the prey items with water or electrolytes is a good idea. If you find that your rhino viper does not drink readily from a standing water supply, hooking it over to the dish every couple of days is a good way to make sure it is drinking.

Getting a rhino to eat should be no problem as long as there are no health problems. If you acquire a new rhino, you should allow it a week or so to settle into its new home. Young can be fed 2 to 3 times a week as long as you are not feeding them huge meals in one sitting. Adults can be fed 1 to 2 times a week as long as you are not offering them huge prey items. It is always suggested that you do not feed venomous snakes together in the same cage or in a cage with a natural substrate or bedding.

All glass aquariums with screen tops should never be used to house any venomous snake. These types of cage possess a risk to the keeper as well as the snake. Proper temps and humidity cannot be maintained in this type of set up. The best cages for venomous snakes are vision and precision style cages with front sliding glass or hinged front opening doors. All cages containing venomous snakes must be lockable.

You want to use a substrate that holds humidity well. Cypress mulch is a great substrate to use. It is cheap and does the required job. It holds humidity well and the snakes can burry themselves in it. There are a lot of other beddings you can buy at a pet store but I find cypress to be the best. It is always a good idea to bake or microwave any natural bedding to rid it of any unwanted insect life or parasites. Never use pine or cedar shavings. The oils and fumes can be fatal to your reptile.

When using a natural substrate you do not have to offer a hide spot because they will use the substrate as a hide. If you are using paper towels as a substrate you should offer some sort of hide spot. As with all venomous snakes the cage decor should be kept to a minimum. This is for keeper safety.

The rhino viper can be a bit defensive at times and become agitated more quickly than the gaboon viper. They can also be a little quicker to strike. They are not tame or docile and should never be regarded as such. All venomous snakes, no matter how mild should be respected.

As with all venomous snakes, the rhino viper should only be handle with the proper tools. Snake hooks, restraint tubes, and trap boxes should be used. Free handling should never be an option. With all the equipment on the market today, there should never be a reason to freely handle a venomous snake. Tailing any bitis can be risky and is not advised unless you 100% confident in your skills and have a death wish so don’t do it.

There is not much documented on the venom of the rhino viper….. However, they are highly venomous and have caused human fatalities. It is suggested that the rhino viper’s venom contains many of the same properties as the gaboon viper but may be a little lesser in toxicity. The venom causes many of the same local, general, and clinical effects as the venom of the gaboon viper. The LD50 is somewhere between 14 and 15 mg/kg and the maximum venom yeild is 200 mg. There is no specific antivenin produced for the rhino viper but the drug (SAIMR polyent) used to treat gaboon viper bites has been used on rhino bites with good results. When keeping exotic venomous snakes, one should have their own supply of anti-venom on site. This is not a snake to be kept by the beginner or inexperienced keeper.