The Sssssnakes, Chameleons, & Turtles of Africa

by Sandy Salle on April 26, 2012

Image to the left taken from


Africa is known for its exotic species of reptiles that range from snakes to chameleons, geckos to lizards, and tortoises to turtles. I’ve just outlined a few of my favorites below:

Egyptian Cobra: Occupying areas that include northern Mozambique, eastern Botswana, and parts of northern Africa, the Egyptian cobra possesses potent neurotoxic venom that the cobra will release if threatened. In fact, they are one of the most venomous cobra species on the planet. The venom attacks the central nervous system of the bitten victim, destroying cells and tissue and causing difficulty breathing, moving, swallowing, and speaking. If gone untreated, a bite can kill its victim within less than a half hour. Adult of this species often grow to 3 – 7 feet in length with a hood that can reach 7 inches long.

As a nocturnal reptile, the Egyptian cobra will hunt for its food at night and has a diet that consists primarily of small critters such as toads, birds, lizards, and other snakes.

And legend has it that Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of Egypt, committed suicide using the venom of an Egyptian cobra or asp (asp is a word commonly used for a venomous snake).

Image to the left of a helmeted terrapin taken from

The African Helmeted Terrapin: Swamp dwellers, the African helmeted terrapin love moderately hot, muggy conditions and can be found throughout areas of southern Africa, as well as Madagascar. This species is also unable to bring it’s shell above its head and limbs when retracted—something that most other turtle species are able to do.

In terms of its appearance, the helmeted terrapin males have a long, thick tail, while the females tend to have a broader shell and shorter tail.

Meller’s Chameleon: Also known as giant one-horned chameleons, Meller’s chameleon is the largest chameleon that is NOT considered native to Madagascar. Nearly a half of all chameleons on this planet live in Madagascar, but these chameleons are actually found throughout eastern Africa.

In terms of their size, the Meller’s chameleon can reach up to two feet in length! It’s also distinguished by the horn on its snout and its color scheme, which is a vibrant green with yellow stripes. And, of course, it’s tongue is quite long, reaching up to 20 inches in length in order to snag prey at fast speeds.

And something that might shock you about ALL chameleon species is that they actually don’t change color for camouflage purposes. Rather, they change color in response to emotions. Color changes are also used for communication purposes!

Image above taken from National Geographic website.
Image to the right of a flap neck chameleon taken from

Flap Neck Chameleon: Adults, on average, are 5 inches in length and vary in color, which can include a combination of pale yellow and green to white

and brown. These chameleons can be found throughout tropical regions of Africa, including Kwa-Zulu Ntal, Mpumalanga, northern and eastern Botswana, as well as the northern Cape region.

One of the most interesting tidbits about the flap neck chameleon is its birthing process. Females can produce anywhere between 25 and 50 eggs at a time, which may not hatch for more than a year!

Image to the left of a boomslang taken from

Boomslang: A stunning emerald-colored snake, the boomslang is one of Africa’s most venomous snakes and can be found throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Although these snakes tend to be a bright green hue, they can also be black or a rusted red color. Their diet primarily consists of small vertebrates such as small birds and other reptiles.

The venom produced by the boomslang is haemotoxic, which means that it prevents the body from producing natural blood clots. This can cause internal organs to bleed uncontrollably. Shockingly, victims might not have symptoms of being bitten for as long as 24 hours!

Aptly named, boomslang is the word used in the Afrikaans language to mean “tree snake,” which is where these reptiles dwell. Their average length in adulthood is 5 feet.

We publish fun facts like the above all the time on our Twitter account. Follow us at @hillsofafrica!

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