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Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 0905639

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 0905639) - Mt. Kenya Bush viper - Awarded $4,000 on March 08, 2010

Atheris desaixi belongs to a group of small broad-headed tree and bush dwelling vipers of the genus Atheris (Spawls et al., 2002). Ashe (1968) described the holotype as charcoal black with mustard yellow tip to each scale and festoon-like marking in the same yellow on either side of the dorsum bracketing the dorsal line. Members of the genus have stout bodies, thin prehensile tails, and are presumably mostly nocturnal although their habits are not well known. Most bush vipers are associated with hill forests at altitudes of 1200m and above (Spawls et al., 2002).

The species is endemic to Kenya and has only been recorded in two distant localities, one in  Chuka on the South-east of Mt Kenya and the other in Igembe forest in the Nyambeni Hills. Apart from the descriptive studies done in the late 1960’s, no more studies have been done on the Atheris desaixi. The species ecology, population status and general biology remain unknown. Even though no population data is available, the species is thought to be rare and its recruitment rate low. Consequently, the species is at risk of extinction in the near future unless urgent conservation measures are taken. Anecdotal reports indicate that the snake faces two major threats to its survival- trade and habitat destruction (Spawls et al., 2002). This beautiful viper is in high demand by foreign collectors for the pet trade and for breeding in zoos. Illegal exports of the snake have been recorded.


The project was carried out with the aim of achieving the following:

  1. To Determine the distribution and conservation status of the Atheris desaixi in Kenya
  2. To assess the habitat condition in the distribution range of the Atheris desaixi
  3. To establish the rate and impacts of illegal trade on the wild populations of this species
  4. To provide baseline information for long-term monitoring studies of the Atheris desaixi



Project 0905639 location - Kenya, Africa