Russels viper

Daboia russelii

SUBFAMILY

Viperinae

TAXONOMY

Daboia russelii Shaw and Nodder, 1797, India (Coromandel Coast). Two subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Chain viper; French: Vipère de Russel; German: Kettenviper.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

This species is characterized by a pattern of three longitudinal rows of reddish brown, black-edged, oval or circular spots on a mostly brownish yellow or brownish gray ground color.

DISTRIBUTION

Russel's viper occurs in Southeast Asia, from India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka to Taiwan in the east and Java, Komodos, and Flores in the south. The distribution is not continuous within this large area.

HABITAT

The species prefers plains, savannas, or hills, and it is encountered regularly in agricultural areas.

BEHAVIOR

It is mainly a nocturnal snake; if encountered during the daytime, it is rather sluggish and, unless attacked, is not aggressive.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

It mainly preys on rodents but also takes frogs, birds, and lizards.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

This large ovoviviparous species can give birth to 20-63 live young in each clutch.

CONSERVATION STATUS

This species is not listed by the IUCN. However, some populations of Russel's viper are endangered, primarily because of collection for leather production or as food. The Indian populations are listed in Appendix III of CITES.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Russel's viper is the most dangerous viper in Southeast Asia and is of great medical importance. This species is responsible for a majority of cases of snakebite injury and death within its range, especially in densely populated areas of the Indian subcontinent. In Sri Lanka and Burma (Myanmar), approximately 2,000 bites and 900 deaths per year are attributed to Russel's viper. ♦

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