Puff adders (Bitis arietans) are large, sluggish snakes with distinctive, pale edged chevrons of dark brown along the back. The broad head is triangular in shape and very distinctive. Nostrils are directed vertically upwards. The females are less brightly coloured than the males and are usually easily distinguishable from the males by its much longer tail portion as seen in the photo below right. They frequent a wide variety of habitats but are prone to lie on game paths where they sun themselves, especially after a cold night. Because they often frequent paths made by man or animals they account for most cases of snakebites in Southern Africa – 80% of which occur below the knee. They are aggressive snakes if disturbed and will hiss audibly and inflate to make themselves appear bigger – hence the name “puff” adder. Average length of adults is about 0,9 m (36 inches). Its diet consists of mainly of frogs and rodents.
Eggs are laid and 20 –40 young are produced at a time. Puff adders have large, needle sharp fangs, which lie in the front of the jaw but are folded back. When the mouth is opened the fangs are brought erect and because of their length – up to 20mm (3/4 of an inch) - can inject a cytotoxic (tissue) venom deep into a victim. The venom causes blistering and severe tissue necrosis and although not nearly as potent as the neurotoxic (nerve) venom of mambas and cobras can be fatal if left untreated – especially in young children or the elderly.