Puff Adder Fact Sheet
PUFF ADDER - LIBULULU
DISTRIBUTION AND DANGER
Puff adders are probably the most widespread snake species found in Africa. They are found throughout Eswatini preferring grassland and savannah habitats. They are mainly active at night, with most bites occurring after dark, but bites do sometimes happen during the day.
Relying on their excellent camouflage, they often wait in ambush next to footpaths in grasslands that rodents might use. Typically a sluggish species, it can resort to a typical serpentine movement of surprising speed.
A robust snake, averaging between 0.9m – 1.2m. The head has a triangular shape, and the scales are rough to the touch. The colour can vary from light to dark brown with distinctive yellow or cream V shapes (chevrons) down the back. The stomach scales (ventral part) are light cream.
If disturbed, it will hiss loudly and continuously adopting a tightly coiled defensive posture with the forepart of its body held in a taut “S” shape. At the same time, it may attempt to back away from the threat to safety. They may strike suddenly and fast, to the side as easily as forwards, before returning quickly to the defensive position, ready to strike again. During a strike, the force of the impact is so strong it looks as if the snake “jumps” forward.
- The venom is highly Cytotoxic, and immediate medical attention is required. Bites to children should be considered a medical emergency.
- There will be intense pain within minutes after the bite that will intensify.
- Local swelling commences within minutes, gradually becoming more severe and will feel hot to the touch.
- There may be bleeding from the bite site. In time, there may be signs of bleeding in gums, nose, blood, vomit and urine.
- The bite site area appears red, purple, blue or darkly discoloured.
- Blood blisters may develop randomly 6-48 hours after envenomation. With time, necrosis is common.
- Diarrhoea and vomiting are common symptoms.
FIRST-AID AFTER A BITE
A bite from this snake is excruciatingly painful but not life-threatening if treated correctly. However, bites to the head or face and bites in children should be considered a medical emergency.
- Remember to remain calm.
- Gently wash the affected area with water, nothing else.
- Remove rings, jewellery and other restrictive clothing or shoes.
- Make a note of the time the bite occurred.
- Gently elevate (lift) the affected limb.
- Keep the limb elevated until you have reached the medical facility.
- Under any circumstances, use a tourniquet (tie a band, belt or rope) or a pressure bandage to the affected limb.
Cut the bite site.
- Drink or apply any herbal remedy to the bite site.
Pictures © Copyright Mike Perry, Tyrone James Ping & Thea Litschka-koen