Sahara Sand Viper

The Sahara sand viper, Avicenna viper, or sand viper, is a viper native to the North African deserts and the Sinai Peninsula. Other common names of the serpent are common sand viper, Cleopatra’s asp, Egyptian asp, lesser cerastes, and Avicenna’s sand viper. The nocturnal hunter has a habit of burying itself in the sand to shield itself from the heat and sun and moves by sidewinding – moving obliquely – to navigate the slippery sand effectively.

Scientific Classifications

Conservation Status

Not EvaluatedNE

Not Evaluated

Data DeficientDD

Data Deficient

Least ConcernLC

Least Concern

Near ThreatenedNT

Near Threatened





Critically EndangeredCR

Critically Endangered

Extinct in the wildEW

Extinct in the wild




Sahara Desert Sand Viper


The average total length of an adult, including the tail, is 8-14 in (20-35 cm). The maximum recorded total length is 1.6 ft (50 cm). The females are larger than the males and have black tails.

Color and Appearance

The small and stout sand viper has a wide, triangular head with small eyes located at the junction of the top and side of the head and set well forward. The pale, tan-colored snake has a darker pattern of crosswise bars or dark spots.

Are They Dangerous to Humans

The elusive and aggressive viper avoids humans. But that doesn’t stop them from striking if they feel threatened though most are dry bites. Their comparatively mild venom is seldom fatal to humans. But it can cause nausea, and severe pain and swelling. Though no human deaths have been recorded, all sand viper bites must be treated at a hospital. More research needs to be done on the venom toxicity of this species, as not much is known about it.

Sahara Sand Vipers at a Glance


In arid North Africa, it lives in Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, Mali, Niger, Libya, Egypt, and Chad. In the Sinai Peninsula, it occurs in Sudan, Egypt, and Israel.

Common Sand Viper


It is only found in desert environments. During the day, the Sahara sand viper hides buried in the sand or under bushes.


The Avicenna viper lives for 15-18 years.


The sand cat and predatory birds feed on this snake.


Lizards, geckos, birds, mice, and amphibians form its prey that are killed or incapacitated by its venom. The Sahara sand viper uses both sit-and-wait ambush and active hunting tactics to find its prey. It actively hunts right before going into hibernation to increase its energy intake.

Cerastes vipera


Ovoviviparous (gives birth to live young from eggs that hatch inside the body)

The Egyptian asp gives birth to up to 8 live young in a litter. The babies are active and venomous at birth.


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