The Herald Snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia) is known by a few other names: Red-lipped Herald, Redlip, Red Lip, White-lipped snake, White-lipped Herald snake, Black-templed Cat Snake.

It is a well-known snake deriving its name from an old Eastern Cape Herald Newspaper.


In South Africa this snake is found in the wetter eastern half of the country – basically throughout South Africa (except for the Karoo and Northern Cape).

Further north it is found across many African countries south of the Sahara (Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, DRC, Malawi, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Senegal, Mali, Eritrea, Ethiopia, S Somalia, Central African Republic, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Togo, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Namibia, Angola, Republic of South Sudan , Chad)


Light olive-brown to dark olive-brown above with a white belly.

The most well-known feature of this snake are the orange-red colored lips, although they can have white-lips, grey-lips or even yellow lips, especially in Kwazulu-Natal coastal areas.

Another key identification point is the dark head which is almost always darker than the body, especially in the temporal region (rear top sides) of the head.

The snake usually has fine white-flecks over the whole body. The white-flecks may form vague pattern or be barely visible.


The snake bad tempered puts up quite a performance. It will thrash about, strike repeatedly while flattening the head and flaring its coloured lips. This is quite viper-like to the untrained eye and people often mistake this snake for a dangerous viper.

The snake will bite readily if grabbed.


This snake has two large, blade-like, back fangs.

Habits and Habitat:

The Herald Snake can be found in a variety of habitats – Fynbos, Grasslands, Savannah, Coastal Forest, Bushveld, Woodland, from sea-level to 2600 meters above sea-level.


The venom of the Herald Snake is mild, but considered harmless. The snake has to ‘chew’ to get venom in. Prolonged bites may result is slight swelling, slight discomfort and itching.

An old-wives-tale claims a bite from this snake will result in a headache, but this is not true. Any headache that is experienced will be purely psycho-somatic.

First Aid:

Fang punctures in the skin may bleed freely for a short while. Wash the wound with soap and water, apply topical anti-septic ointment and then cover with a plaster. No other action is needed.