Beastly Beat
Morticia the Gaboon Viper

Shortly after Morticia the gaboon viper arrived at the Zoo, she would not take any food. Although snakes do not always eat on a regular basis, there is a point when it is time for concern. Reptiles in general do not show many clinical signs of being ill. Many snakes do not eat for weeks at a time on a normal basis, so when the animal is not eating, it is difficult to know if it is truly sick or if it is just its normal pattern. Staff closely monitored Morticia, and when she started to lose weight, tests were done to uncover any medical reasons for her loss of appetite.

Safety precautions are of the utmost importance when treating animals like the venomous gaboon viper. To prevent the handler from getting bit, a snake hook and a special tube that prevents the snake from turning and striking was used. Once captured, the veterinarian was able to do a physical exam on Morticia, just like any other animal.

Blood tests revealed she was suffering from severe parasites. The treatment, however, called for oral medication, which can be difficult to administer while avoiding venomous fangs. Part of the challenge of caring for exotic animals is coming up with creative and innovative ways to treat them. The health care team came up with a way to administer the medication via a tube, keeping everyone safe and giving Morticia the treatment she needed. Morticia responded very well to the medication. She is eating well and is at a very healthy weight.

A Striking Fact
Despite being a rather sluggish snake, the gaboon viper has one of the fastest and most lethal strikes of any serpent. The gaboon viper has the longest fangs of any snake, measuring up to 2 inches long. Like other snakes when threatened, this African native will rear up and hiss to reveal its menacing fangs to an intruding predator.

Where in the Zoo?
Morticia is on exhibit in the Venom Center located in the African Experience.

Click here to learn more about the gaboon viper.