So, you’re curious about venomous snakes in Morocco? Well, you’ve come to the right place. This guide is all about tracking down the most feared and formidable serpents that slither around the land of the tagine and the towering Atlas Mountains, all to help would-be travelers to the amazing country get a grip on some of the critters they probably most want to avoid.
The bad news is that there are quite a few venomous snakes in Morocco. Yep, of the 20 or so species that you do find in this corner of North Africa, there’s a whole bunch that have the power to kill a human. Some can even do it in a matter of hours!
The good news is that snakebite incidents in Morocco are nowhere near as bad as they are in, say, India, a country which has more annual incidents than all of sub-Saharan Africa combined. What’s more, most snakebite incidents here are limited to the rural areas of the south and southwest of the, far from the frenetic bazaars of Fez and Marrakesh that often draw the biggest crowds.
Puff adder (Bitis arietans)
The puff adder is certainly one of the most venomous snakes in Morocco because it’s also one of the most venomous snakes in all of Africa. Famously aggressive, they are thought to be responsible for the single highest number of snakebite fatalities on the continent, though experts often attribute that largely to how widespread they are.
Still, the venom isn’t something we’d recommend trying. It’s up there with the most powerful of any viper species in the world. Let’s begin with the amount that’s injected at each bite – most puff adders push out something in the region of 150-300mg of the bad juju in one attack, though some individuals can manage over 750mg. To put that in perspective, you only need 100mg to kill an adult human in under 24 hours. Yikes!
Symptoms of being envenomated by a puff adder include swelling of the limbs, sudden hemorrhages around the body, internal bleeding, and pressure wounds on the flesh. Death can follow quickly if the bite’s left untreated and some estimations have it that over half of all incidents end fatally. Double yikes!
As we’ve mentioned, the puff adder is among the most populous snakes in Africa. It’s present in almost all countries of the sub-Saharan region and resides in the hot habitats of southern Morocco to boot. Its favorite places are open savannahs, rocky grasslands, and meadows with good plant coverage.
Horned viper (Cerastes cerastes)
The horned viper is one formidable looking snake. Just as the name implies, it’s fronted by two, devil-like horns that rise from a bulge in the head just above the eyes. Talking of the eyes – they’re hardly the most un-sinister thing on the planet, either, forming a slit-like line from top to bottom behind jagged scales of sandy beige.
It’s right to look like a mean customer. This serpent, also known invariably as the Saharan horned viper and the desert horned viper, is up there with the deadliest animals in the land of scented tagines and argan oil. It has a venom that causes uncontrolled vomiting, sickness, nausea, and necrosis of the flesh, capable of killing humans in less than a day if left untreated.
Horned vipers are very well adapted to life in the hot and dusty climbs of North Africa. Truth be told, Morocco is on the very western fringes of their range, which mainly anchors on the lands between Libya and Syria. However, there’s still ample desert landscapes for them to scour with that trademark sidewinding motion in these parts.
Egyptian cobra (Naja haje)
Despite its name, the Egyptian cobra does actually make its home right across North Africa, and even appears in countries like Israel and Jordan further out in the Middle East. Similar in looks to its much-feared Indian compadre (a snake that’s responsible for the highest number of deaths on the subcontinent), the species is generally limited to the arid lands beyond the Anti-Atlas Mountains in the far southwest of the country.
You won’t want to hang around if you do get up close. Just one look at that fanned hood and one snippet of the hissing warning sound they give off when threatened usually scares humans off. And so it should…The venom of an Egyptian cobra is a mix of cytotoxins and chemicals that attack the nervous system, capable of causing complete shutdown of the heart and lungs if left untreated. What’s more, the cobras found in the northern part of Africa (Morocco included) are known to have the strongest venom of the whole lot. The only saving grace is that Egyptian cobras can’t spit venom during an attack like some other members of their genus can.
Capable of growing up to 1.5 meters in length, this is a big, beefy snake. They’re usually colored a dark brown hue but can also be lighter ochre and even pale white, especially before shedding begins. Thankfully, they’re mainly active at night and but do have something of a penchant for entering built-up areas and homes.
One extra facet about Egyptian cobras in Morocco: These are the snakes that you’ll see being charmed by the mystics on bustling Jemaa el-Fnaa Square in the middle of heady Marrakesh. The tradition is an ancient one, but it’s now considered highly controversial since most of the snakes have been brutally defanged before charming. Think twice about standing and watching.
Moorish viper (Daboia mauritanica)
The range of the Moorish viper forms a snake-like S-bend across the Maghreb and North Africa. The species lives as far east as Egypt and crosses all of the Mediterranean coast of the continent. But its greatest numbers are thought to be here, in the home of couscous and smoking lamb kebabs, hence why we list it among the most venomous snakes in Morocco.
Bites from these guys can lead to severe hemotoxic complications. That means serious implications for the proper flow of the blood around vital organs, with many victims suffering uncontrolled bleeding due to lack of blood clotting.
Also known as the Sahara rock viper and the Atlas blunt-nosed viper, the species is found widely across the regions around Marrakesh and Fez. They’re also unique in that they live high up in the more altitudinous reaches of the country, so you’ll need to be wary if you’re venturing to Imlil for trekking under the gaze of Mount Toubkal and the like.
The animal is long and thin with a stouter middle torso than tail and head. Its coloring ranges from sandy tan to dark brown. There are zig-zag black markings all the way up the back.
White-bellied carpet viper (Echis leucogaster)
The white-bellied carpet viper is native to a swathe of western Africa that actually starts in the very far south of Morocco. That means you’re pretty unlikely to cross trails with this one, especially if you’re sticking to the mainstay draws of Marrakesh, Fez, and the Atlas Mountains. Where it can be found is amid the semi-desert and Sahel around the contested border with Western Sahara south of the Mini Atlas.
A relatively small member of the viper tree, Echis leucogaster usually grows to just over 60cm in length at full adulthood. They have a tapering body that meets a fatter middle before coming to a narrow, pointed tail. The markings are clear crossbar lines picked out in darker colors, while the body can be anything from light grey to dusky brown.
Not too much is known about the venom of a white-bellied carpet viper. That’s mainly because they live in such remote parts of Africa that they don’t often come into close enough contact with human habitations to dose out regular bites. That said, all echis bites are known to be pretty severe and there’s antivenin available to help counter the effects of envenomation.
Venomous snakes in Morocco – our conclusion
There are actually quite a few venomous snakes in Morocco – sorry all you ophidiophobia sufferers with your hearts set on exploring the medieval medina towns and incense-scented bazaars! Most notably, Morocco is home to what’s widely considered to be the deadliest snake in all of Africa: The puff adder. On top of that, there are a number of species that live in the dry and sunny deserts of the south, but also some vipers that have a strong venom that make the Atlas Mountains and popular coastal plains their home.
Are there venomous snakes in Morocco?
There are venomous snakes in Morocco. In fact, there are quite a few. They’re mainly members of the viper tree of snakes, which are all venomous and have adapted to habitats as varied as the wooded Atlas Mountains and the fringes of the Saharan desert.
What’s the most dangerous snake in Morocco?
That dubious title has to go to the puff adder. It’s considered the most dangerous snake in Africa, and experts believe it’s responsible for the highest rate of snakebite deaths in humans on the whole continent. Some estimations have it that over 50% of bites from this species will prove fatal.