Rhamphiophis rubropunctatus (FISCHER, 1884)

Names Beaked Snake, Red-spotted beaked snake, Schnabelnasennatter

A picture of a typical juvenile specimen shows the correctness of the name: 'with red spots'. Adult animals are uniformly olive with lighter, orange heads.

Derivatio nominis
Synonyms Dipsina rubropunctata FISCHER 1884: 7
Rhagerrhis rubropunctata — GÜNTHER 1888: 327
Rhamphiophis rubropunctatus — BOGERT 1942
Rhamphiophis rubropunctatus — LOVERIDGE 1955
Rhamphiophis rubropunctatus — BROADLEY & HOWELL 1991: 27
Rhamphiophis rubropunctatus — SPAWLS et al. 2001
Rhamphiophis rubropunctatus — LARGEN & SPAWLS 2010: 571 
Type locality Near Arusha, Tanzania [“am Fusse des Kilima-Ndjaro” = Mount Kilimanjaro].
Distribution & habitat S Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, E Kenya, N Tanzania.
Up to an elevation of about 1200 metres in semi-desert, sandy dry savanna, moist savanna, coastal thicket and open woodlands.

"This is a typical species of the Somali-Masai faunal region, ranging from the Toghdeer region of northern Somalia through Ethiopia's Ogaden region to southern Somalia, Kenya, northeastern Tanzania and South Sudan (Largen and Rasmussen 1993, Loveridge 1955, Lanza 1990). This secretive snake is probably more widespread in East Africa than records suggest (Spawls et al. 2002). It ranges from sea level to around 1,200 m asl. (Spawls et al. 2002)."(3)

"This species appears to be far less common in Ethiopia than Rhamphiophis rostratus (Largen and Spawls 2010), and this is also reported to be the case in Kenya where R. rubropunctatus is described as being uncommon (Spawls et al. 2002). A survey in southern Somalia suggests that in this area the reverse is true (Spawls et al. 2002); however this was an intensive collection that obtained most specimens from within termite mounds, a form of destructive sampling not usually employed in herpetological fieldwork (S. Spawls pers. comm. 2014). Anecdotally, as many as 14 have been collected at a site in Tanzania in a day following heavy rains (J. Beraduccii pers. comm. 2014)."(3)

"This species is found in semi- and near-desert, both moist and dry savanna, coastal thicket and woodland (Spawls et al. 2002); ecologically it resembles R. rostratus, with which it is sympatric in Ethiopia's Awash National Park and Torit in South Sudan (Largen and Rasmussen 1993, Loveridge 1955). It appears to exhibit an association with termite mounds as shelter sites in some areas, but is equally able to utilize tree holes and other natural hollows (J. Beraduccii and S. Spawls pers. comm. 2014). It is diurnal and mostly terrestrial, but will climb into low trees (Spawls et al. 2002). It is presumably oviparous (Spawls et al. 2002). A specimen from Torit was collected close to a house (Loveridge 1955)."(3)

Description Large in length, cylindrical bodied snake with a moderately long tail. Can grow to a maximum of about 2.48 metres. Head is short, distinct from neck with a prominent, hooked or beak-like, pointed snout. Head dorsum is distinctly convex when viewed from the side. Eyes are medium in size with round pupils. Dorsal scales are smooth.
(Clinical Toxinology Resources).

My captive bred specimens, born in 2011, were about 190 cm long in 2015.


Venom Compare with the remarks on R. oxyrhynchus.

Nexus writes: 'Little knowledge is there about bites from this genus and their effect on humans. It concerns a neurotoxin with postsynaptic activity, which probably immobilizes the prey. Because of the strongly developed teeth and given the fact they belong to the psammophiinae, that can cause painful bites (Psammophis), one should handle these animals with care.'

Clinical Toxinology Resources:
Unknown, but unlikely to cause significant envenoming, most unlikely to be dangerous (based on current, limited, information).
General: Rate of Envenoming: Unknown but likely to be low
General: Untreated Lethality Rate:
Unlikely to prove lethal, based on current (limited) information
General: Local Effects

Insufficient clinical reports to know, but most likely minor local pain & swelling only

Food These snakes probably hunts burrowing prey. In captivity they generally feed on small mice and nestling rats. My animals accept almost everything, live or dead, complete or in parts.
The jaws cannot be opened as wide as those of most snakes, so the prey must be relatively small. They hunt fast and eagerly.
Behaviour These animals are very calm and not very apt to bite their attendant. But: 'The male is miore agile than the female and has more phases of activity. The female is undamentally more frantic and agressive when handled, which I only do with hooks'(Nexus).
Other caretakers are a lot less careful and handle these snakes with normal gloves or bare-handed.
Advices for the keeping of these snakes can be found on http://www.familie-hauffe.de/atlex/arten.asp?id=1138.

Matthias Kunz accounts: '...my animals have two short phases of activity. The first starts early in the afternoon and ends at the lates around 14.00h. In this first fase they mess up the complete terrarium and they seem to play with the water. I know it sounds awkward, but I keep being amazed to see this.
The second phase is shorter, mostly in het late afternoon. Then they often look for a different hideout and eventually drink somewhat. When the relative humidity is raised to about 70% and temperature is kept at about 27°C, they can be observed for a longer period. In the terrarium ambient temperature should be between 25 and 30°C, locally 35°C.

Headscales I took some photographs of the headscales of two animals in my possession. One has parietal pits, the other doesn't.
Care A certain Nexus, member of the Terraristik Forum terraon.de accounts for the way he keeps his animals as follows. 'I keep mine at 25-30 degrees. The RH is between 50 and 70% (as I prefer a rather dry environment).' 'I use fine woodshavings as the animals like to burrow! Beside that, climbing branches and holes.'

Mathias Kunz accounts: 'For ground covering a mix of sand, clay and peat can be used, or just sand. I use a litter of Altromin, which is used in laboratories for rodents. It consists of small vegetable chips that are not harmful when swallowed and will be digested. I use it for hygienical reasons and because of the low cost.'

Then there is a breeding report from a Ricky at http://www.sareptiles.co.za/forum/viewtopic.php?f=61&t=12877


  • Bogert, Charles M. 1942. Snakes secured by the Snyder East African Expedition in Kenya Colony and Tanganyika Territory American Museum Novitates (1178): 1-5
  • Broadley, D. G. & HOWELL, K. M. 1991. A check list of the reptiles of Tanzania, with synoptic keys. Syntarsus 1: 1—70
  • Chirio,L. & Ineich,I. 1991. Les genres Rhamphiophis Peters 1854 et Dipsina Jan 1863 (Serpentes, Colubridae): revue des taxons reconnus et description d'une espèce nouvelle. Bull. Mus. natl. Hist. nat., Paris, 4è ser. 13A (1-2): 217-235
  • Fischer, J. G. 1884. Über einige afrikanische Reptilien, Amphibien und Fische des Naturhistorischen Museums I. Über die von Herrn Dr. G.A. Fischer in Massai Gebiete (Ost Afrika) auf seiner in Veranlassung der geographischen Gesellschaft in Hamburg unternommenen Expeditio Jahrb. Hamburg Wiss. Anst. 1: 1-32
  • Günther,A. 1888. Contribution to the knowledge of snakes of tropical Africa. Ann. Mag. nat. Hist. (6) 1: 322-335
  • Lanza, B. 1990. Amphibians and reptiles of the Somali Democratic Republic: check list and biogeography. Biogeographia, 14: 407-465 [1988]
  • Largen, M.J.; Spawls, S. 2010. Amphibians and Reptiles of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt, 694 pp.
  • Loveridge, A. 1956. On snakes collected in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan by J.S. Owen, Esq. Sudan Notes Rec. 36: 37-56 [1955]
  • Necas, P. & Schmidt, W. 2004. Stump-tailed Chameleons. Miniature Dragons of the Rainforest. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt, 256 pp. [review in Elaphe 14 (1): 24]
  • Spawls, S.; Howell, K.; Drewes, R.C. & Ashe, J. 2001. A field guide to the reptiles of East Africa. Academic Press, 543 pp. [reviews in HR 34: 396 and Afr. J. Herp. 51; 147]



captive bred adult
Ton Steehouder
captive bred adult
Ton Steehouder
captive bred adult
Ton Steehouder
captive bred adult
Ton Steehouder
captive bred adult
Ton Steehouder
shedding disorder
captive bred adult
Ton Steehouder
shedding disorder
captive bred adult
Ton Steehouder
captive bred adult
Ton Steehouder
Juveniles at Zirkle Reptiles, Ohio. 2015 2016
Stratton Hatfield‎ in the Facebook
group East African Snakes & other reptiles.


Direct references used on this page:

  1. The Reptile Database
  2. Rearfanged, the herpetological resource for opistoglyphous snakes (Fabian Dirks)
  3. http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/13300539/0