Zambian Reptiles and Amphibians

Zambia has a wide range of diverse habitats and although little research has been done in the field of reptiles and amphibians, over 150 species and sub-species of reptiles, and more than 90 of amphibians, have been found throughout the Country, with more being discovered each year.

Our team are not reptile or amphibian experts and we have put together the lists of Zambia’s species from a variety of different published sources.  If you spot a mistake or know of a reptile or amphibian that is not on our lists, then please contact us and we will amend them.

Reptiles in Zambia


Reptiles are animals that belong to the class Reptilia – this includes crocodiles, tortoises, turtles, lizards and snakes.  They are all cold-blooded, have vertebrae (a backbone), a dry scaly skin and have lungs.  Some of them have four legs, and lay eggs which have a tough protective shell.  With the exception of crocodiles and some snakes, reptiles are not dangerous to people, and they play an important role in Zambia’s bio-diversity.

Of the 150 species found in Zambia, approximately 57% are snakes, 37% are lizards, 5% are tortoises and turtles, and 1% are crocodiles.  Of these, 45 species are considered rare, being recorded in only one locality and four are endemic:

Kafue Round-snouted Worm Lizard (Zygaspis kafuensis)
A legless skink (Acontias schmitzi)
Aagama (Acanthocercus branchi)
A night adder (Causus rasmusseni)


The most recognisable reptile is the crocodile, which can be found in bodies of water across the country.  The most common is the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus).  The Slender snouted crocodile (Crocodilus cataphractus) is only found in the Luapula and Bangweulu regions.

Nile Crocodile
Slender Snouted Crocodile

Lizards, Geckos and Skinks

The Nile Monitor (Varanus niloticus niloticus) is our largest lizard which can grow up to 2 metres in length.  These are found in and around rivers, lakes and marshes.  They raid crocodile nests, stealing the eggs and they eat crabs, mussels and a variety of small mammals, birds, fish and other reptiles.

The Savannah Monitor (Varanus exanthematicus albigularis) grows up to 1.3 metres in length living in dryer areas.  They are very alert and agile and live in burrows in the ground and in hollows in trees.  They also eat small mammals, insects and other reptiles.

Other monitors and lizards, include
Rock (White-throated) Monitor (Varanus albigularis)
Bushveld Lizard (Heliobolus lugubris)
Cape Rough-scaled Lizard (Ichnotropis capensis)
Common Rough-scaled Lizard (Ichnotropis squamulosa)
East African Spiny-tailed Lizard (Cordylus tropidosternum)
Zambian Snake Lizard (Chamaesaura macrolepis)

Rock lizards
Black-lined Plated Lizard (Gerrhosaurus nigrolineatus)
Giant Plated Lizard (Gerrhosaurus validus)
Kalahari Plated Lizard (Gerrhosaurus multilineatus)
Rough-scaled Plated Lizard (Gerrhosaurus major)
Yellow-throated Plated Lizard (Gerrhosaurus flavigularis)

Agama class of small long-tailed lizards
Blue Headed Tree Agama (Acanthocercus atricollis)
Kirk’s Rock Agama (Agama kirkii)
Peter’s Ground Agama (Agama armata)
Southern Tree Agama (Acanthocercus atricollis)

Worm like lizards
Kalahari Round-headed Worm Lizard (Zygaspis quadrifrons)
Black Round-headed Worm Lizard (Zygaspis nigra)
Kalahari Spade-snouted Worm Lizard (Monopeltis leonhardi)
Zimbabwe Spade-snouted Worm Lizard (Monopeltis rhodesiana)
Slender Spade-snouted Worm Lizard (Monopeltis sphenorhynchus)
Blunt-tailed Worm Lizard (Dalophia pistillum)
Long-tailed Worm Lizard (Dalophia longicauda)
Kafue Round-snouted Worm Lizard (Zygaspis kafueensis)

Common House Gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia)
Angola Dwarf Gecko (Lygodactylus angolensis)
Bibron’s Gecko (Pachydactylus bibronii)
Kalahari Ground Gecko (Colopus wahlbergii)
Moreau’s Tropical House Gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia)
Cape Dwarf Gecko (Lygodactylus capensis)
Chobe Dwarf Gecko (Lygodactylus chobiensis)
O’Shaughnessy’s Thick-toed Gecko (Pachydactylus oshaughnessyi)
Speckled Thick-toed Gecko (Pachydactylus punctatus)
Turner’s Thick-toed Gecko (Pachydactylus turneri)
Wahlberg’s Velvet Gecko (Homopholis wahlbergii)

In Lavushi Manda National Park a possible new form of the Variable Skink has been found on the mountain range – the ‘Lavushi Manda Skink’.   More common species include the large colourful Rainbow Skink (Trachylepsis margaritifer) which can grow up to 270mm as well as the more typical Striped Skink (Trachylepsis striata).

Other skinks include
Kalahari Burrowing Skink (Typhlacontias rohani)
Speckle-lipped Forest Skink (Mabuya maculilabris)
Sundevall’s Writhing Skink (Lygosoma sundevallii)
Tree Skink (Mabuya planifrons)
African Five-lined Skink (Trachylepis quinquetaeniata)
Bronze Rock Skink (Trachylepsis lacertiformis)
Variable Skink (Trachylepsis varia)
Variegated Skink (Trachylepsis variegata)
Spotted-neck Snake-eyed Skink (Panaspis maculilabris)
Wahlberg’s Snake-eyed Skink (Panaspis wahlbergi)

Nile Monitor

Tortoise and Turtles

Both turtles and tortoise belong to the oldest group of reptiles, which dates back 220 million years.  All tortoises are actually turtles, as they all belong to the order of Testudines, but not all turtles are tortoises!  They both have bodies that are shielded by a hard shell.  Tortoises are land reptiles which can live in a variety of habitats but cannot swim and are mainly vegetarian, with short and study feet that enable them to travel around on dry land.  Turtles live in and around water, and are omnivores – meaning they eat both vegetation and meat, in the form of insects and fish.  Many species of turtles have webbed feet, enabling them to be good swimmers.

Our main species of tortoise are
Leopard Tortoise (Geochelone pardalis)
Speke’s Hinged Tortoise (Kinixys spekii)
Bell’s Hinged Tortoise (Kinixys belliana)

And the turtles found here are
Serrated Hinged Terrapin (Pelusios sinuatus)
Marsh or Swamp Terrapin (Pelomedusa subrufa)
Pan Hinged Terrapin (Pelusios subniger)
Okavango Hinged Terrapin (Pelusios bechuanicus)
African Mud Turtle (Pelusios castaneus)
Variable Hinged Terrapin (Pelusios rhodesianus)

Leopard Tortoise


Culturally, one of Zambian’s most feared reptiles is the chameleon.  They are considered to be bad omens, especially if you see one crossing the road.  They are also locally thought to be poisonous and if you are bitten by one you will then turn into different colours.  Chameleons are distrusted because they are able to change colour and the fact that their protruding eyes can turn independently of each other.

Our main species of chameleons are
Flap-necked Chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepsis)
Smooth Chameleon (Chamaeleo laevigatus)
Meller’s or Giant one horned Chameleon (Trioceros melleri)

And chameleons found on the Nyika Plateau
Nyika Whistling Chameleon (Trioceros goetzei nyikae)
Ukinga Hornless Chameleon (Trioceros incornutus)
Nchisi Pygmy Chameleon (Rhampholeon nchisiensis)

Flap-necked Chameleon


Snakes are the largest group of reptiles found, belonging to the ‘suborder’ Serpentes.  Of the 92 different species found in Zambia, 16 are considered potentially deadly, with nine delivering painful bites.  They are found across the Country and many of them are harmless and non-venomous, like the Brown House Snake (Lamprophis fuliginosus) which are found in urban areas, and Africa’s largest snake, the Southern African Python (Python natalensis).

Zambia is also home to different species of mambas, cobras and vipers, such as the beautiful Gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica) which are found in woodlands and forests in the North of the Country.  The Puff adder (Bitis arietans) is responsible for more cases of snakebites than any other snake because when approached it will puff itself up and issue a warning, rather than slithering away.

You can find 44 different species of snakes in Kafue National Park and 34 in South Luangwa National Park.  Researchers in Kasanka National Park have found a newly described species of Night Adder (Causus rasmusseni) which is related to the common night adder and it is one of the 36 species found in the Park.

African Python

Southern African Python (Python sebae natalensis)

Cobras and Mambas
Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepsis)
Mozambique Spitting Cobra (Naja mossambica)
Black-necked Spitting Cobra (Naja nigricollis)
Shield Cobra (Aspidelaps scutatus)
Forest Cobra (Naja melanoleuca)
Gunther’s Garter Snake (Elapsoidea guentheri)
Angolan Garter Snake (Elapsoidea semiannulata)
Boulenger’s Garter Snake (Elapsoidea boulengeri)
Anchieta’s Cobra (Naja anchietae)
Snouted Cobra (Naja annulifera)
Egyptian Cobra (Naja haje)
Eastern Forest Cobra (Naja melanoleuca subfulva)

Rhombic or Common Night Adder (Causus rhombeatus)
Snouted Night Adder (Causus defilippii)
Gaboon Viper (Bitis gabonica)
Puff Adder (Bitis arietans)
Kasanka National Park’s undescribed night adder (Causus rasmusseni)

Burrowing snakes, which live underground
Bibron’s Burrowing Asp (Atractaspis bibronii)
Reticulated Centipede Eater (Aparallactus lunulatus)
Cape Centipede Eater (Aparallactus capensis)
Common Purple-glossed Snake (Amblyodipsas polylepis)
Kalahari Purple-glossed Snake (Amblyodipsas ventrimaculata)
Gerard’s Black and Yellow Burrowing Snake (Chilorhinophis gerardi)
Bicoloured Quill-snouted Snake (Xenocalamus bicolor)
Elongate Quill-snouted Snake (Xenocalamus mechowii)

Blind snakes
Delalande’s Beaked Blind Snake (Rhinotyphlops lalandei)
Schlegel’s Beaked Blind Snake (Rhinotyphlops schlegelii petersii)
Lineolate Blind Snake (Afrotyphlops lineolatus)
Schmidt’s Blind Snake (Afrotyphlops schmidti)
Gracile Blind Snake (Letheobia gracilis)

Worm (or Thead) snakes
Long-tailed Thread Snake (Leptotyphlops longicaudus)
Emin’s Thread Snake (Leptotyphlops emini)
Peters’ Thread Snake (Leptotyphlops scutifrons)
Cape Thread Snake (Leptotyphlops conjunctus)
Katanga Worm Snake (Leptotyphlops kafubi)

Other typical snakes
Brown House Snake (Lamprophis fuliginosus)
Cape Wolf Snake (Lycophidion capense)
Variegated Wolf Snake (Lycophidion variegatum)
Cape File Snake (Mehelya capensis)
Black File Snake (Mehelya nyassae)
Shreve’s Tree Snake (Dipsadoboa shrevei kageleri)
Mole Snake (Pseudaspis cana)
Olive Marsh Snake (Natriciteres olivacea)
Eastern Striped Swamp Snake (Limnophis bangweolicus)
Bi-coloured Swamp Snake (Limnophis bicolor)
Sundervall’s Shovelsnout (Prosymna sundervallii)
Two-striped Shovelsnout (Prosymna bivittata)
Angola Shovelsnout (Prosymna angolensis)
East African Shovelsnout (Prosymna stuhlmannii)
Bocage’s Shovel Snout (Prosymna ambigua)
Eastern Bark Snake (Hemirhagerrhis nototaenia)
Rufous Beaked Snake (Ramphiophis rostratus)
Lined Olympic Snake (Dromophis lineatus)
Olive Grass Snake (Psammophis mossambicus)
Three-lined Grass Snake (Psammophylax tritaeniatus)
Grey-bellied Grass Snake (Psammophylax variabilis)
Jalla’s Sand Snake (Psammophis jallae)
Phillips’ Sand Snake (Psammophis phillipsi)
Stripe-bellied Sand Snake (Psammophis subtaeniatus)
Dwarf Sand Snake (Psammophis angolensis)
Zambian Whip Snake (Psammophis zambiensis)
Semiornate Snake (Meizodon semiornatus)
Spotted Bush Snake (Philothamnus semivariegatus)
Green Water Snake (Philothamnus hoplogaster)
Angola Green Snake (Philothamnus Angolensis)
Common Egg Eater (Dasypeltis scabra)
White-lipped Herald Snake (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia)
Shreve’s Nocturnal Tree Snake (Dipsabodoa shrevei)
Eastern Tiger Snake (Telescopus semiannulatus)
Boomslang (Dispholidus typus)
Vine Snake (Thelotornis capensis)

Amphibians in Zambia


There are more than 90 known species and sub-species of amphibians in Zambia.  These all belong to the class Amphibia – this includes newts, frogs, toads and salamanders.

Amphibians are seen as more primitive than reptiles, evolving from lobe-finned bony fishes.  Thirteen species are considered rare, as they have only been recorded in one area, such as the Nyika dwarf toad (Mertensophryne nyikae), which is seen as a vulnerable species due to its restricted range on the Nyika Plateau in Eastern Zambia.  There are two endemic amphibian species:  the Barotse Shovel-snout Frog (Hemisus barotseensis) and the Kafue Reed Frog (Hyperolius pyrrhodictyon).

There has been little research done on Zambian amphibians.  They are easier to find (and hear) in the rainy season when the rains soften the earth and rainwater fills seasonal pools, triggering their breeding activity.  The chorus of male frogs calling to attract a mate is made up of different species of frogs, with each call being unique to each species.  During the cooler dry season many amphibians hibernate – their heartbeat and breathing slows, their body temperature drops, and they pass the dry season in a state of dormancy.


Grey Foam Nest Tree Frog (Chiromantis xerampelina)
Boettger’s Dainty Frog (Cacosternum boettgeri)
Angola or Common River Frog (Amietia angolensis)

Clawed frogs
Clawed Frog (Xenopus laevis poweri)
Peters’ Platanna (Xenopus petersii)
Muller’s Platanna (Xenopus muelleri)

Rain frogs
Common Rain Frog (Breviceps adspersus)
Mozambique Rain Frog (Breviceps mossambicus)
Power’s Rain Frog (Breviceps poweri)

Red banded and red spotted frogs
Banded Rubber Frog (Phrynomantis bifasciatus)
Spotted Rubber Frog (Phrynomantis affinis)

African Bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus)
Lesser or Edible Bullfrog (Pyxicephalus edulis)
Catequero Bullfrog (Tomopterna cryptotis)
Marbled Sand Frog (Tomopterna marmorata)
Rough Sand Frog (Tomopterna tuberculosa)

Golden backed frogs
Darling’s White-lipped Frog (Amnirana darlingi)
Galam White-lipped Frog (Amnirana galamensis)
Lemaire’s White-lipped Frog (Amnirana lemairei)

Burrowing and ornate burrowing frogs
Bocage’s Tree Frog (Leptopelis bocagei)
Cinnamon Tree Frog (Leptopelis cynnamomeus)
Cryptic tree Frog (Leptopelis parbocagii)
African Ornate Frog (Hildebrandtia ornata)
Groove Crowned Frog (Hoplobatrachus occipitalis)
Fuelleborn’s Stream Frog or Long-toed Grass Frog (Strongylopus fuelleborni)
Striped Stream Frog (Strongylopus fasciatus)

Ridged frogs
Ansorge’s Ridged Frog (Ptychadena ansorgii)
Grandison’s Ridged Frog (Ptychadena grandisonae)
Grassland Ridged Frog (Ptychadena porosissima)
Guibe’s Ridged Frog (Ptychadena guibei)
Mapacha Ridged Frog (Ptychadena mapacha)
Mozambique Ridged Frog (Ptychadena mossambica)
Mascarene Grass Frog (Ptychadena mascareniensis)
Plain Grass Frog (Ptychadena anchietae)
Rough Ridged Frog (Ptychadena bunoderma)
Sharp-nosed Ridged Frog (Ptychadena oxyrhynchus)
Small Ridged or Dwarf Grass Frog (Ptychadena taenioscelis)
Spotted Ridged Frog (Ptychadena subpunctata)
Udzungwa Ridged Frog (Ptychadena uzungwensis)
Upemba Ridged Frog (Ptychadena upembae)
Ptychadena perplicata
Ptychadena obscura
Ptychadena keilingi

Dwarf puddle frogs
Natal Dwarf or Snoring puddle frog (Phrynobatrachus natalensis)
Mababe Puddle Frog (Phrynobatrachus mababiensis)
Dwarf Puddle Frog (Phrynobatrachus parvulus)
Rungwe Puddle Frog (Phrynobatrachus rungwensis)
Phrynobatrachus perpalmatus

Squeaking frogs
Plain Squeaker (Arthroleptis xenochirus)
Common Squeaker (Arthroleptis stenodactylus)
Dwarf Squeaker (Arthroleptis xenodactylus)

Shovel-snouted frogs
Barotse Shovel-snout Frog (Hemisus barotseensis)
Marbled Snout-burrower Frog (Hemisus marmoratus)
Guinea Snout-burrower Frog (Hemisus guineensis)
De Witte’s Snout-burrower (Hemisus wittei)

Bubbling kassinas
Common Bubbling or Senegal Frog (Kassina senegalensis)
Kuvangu Kassina (Kassina kuvangensis)
De Witte’s Clicking Frog (Kassinula Wittei)

Spiny reed frogs
De Witte’s Spiny Reed Frog (Afrixalus wittei)
Four-striped Tree-folding Frog (Afrizalus quadrivittatus)
Snoring Spiny Reed Frog (Afrixalus crotalus)

Reed frogs
Angolan Reed Frog (Hyperolius parallelus)
Benguella Long Reed Frog (Hyperolius benguellensis)
Bocage’s Reed Frog (Hyperolius bocagei)
Cinnamon-bellied Reed Frog (Hyperolius cinnamomeoventris)
Kafue Reed Frog (Hyperolius pyrrhodictyon)
Long Nosed Reed Frog (Hyperolius nasutus)
Painted Reed Frog (Hyperolius marmoratus)
Painted Reed Frog (Hyperolius marmoratus angolensis)
Painted Reed Frog (Hyperolius marmoratus aposematicus)
Painted Reed Frog (Hyperolius marmoratus argentovittis)
Painted Reed Frog (Hyperolius marmoratus bitaeniatus)
Painted Reed Frog (Hyperolius marmoratus pyrrhodictyon)
Painted Reed Frog (Hyperolius marmoratus marginatus)
Painted Reed Frog (Hyperolius marmoratus melanoleucus)
Painted Reed Frog (Hyperolius marmoratus rhodoscelis)
Five-striped Reed Frog (Hyperolius quinquevittatus)
Five-striped Reed Frog (Hyperolius quinquevittatus mertensis)
Kivu Reed Frog (Hyperolius kivuensis)
Robust Long Reed Frog (Hyperolius viridis)
Steindachner’s Reed Frog (Hyperolius steindachneri)
Tinker Reed Frog (Hyperolius tuberilinguis)
Variable Reed Frog (Hyperolius pictus)
Hyperolius kachalolae
Hyperolius mariae
Hyperolius platyceps major

Beira Dwarf toad (Poyntonophrynus beiranus)
Dark-sided Toad (Mertensophryne melanopleura)
Tata Toad (Mertensophryne taitana)
Flat-backed Toad (Amietophrynus maculatus)
Guttaral Toad (Amietophrynus gutturalis)
Kisolo Toad (Sclerophrys kisoloensis)
Nyika Dwarf Toad (Mertensophryne nyikae)
Red Toad (Schismaderma carens)
Yellow Swamp Toad (Amietophrynus lemairii)
Merten’s Striped Toad (Sclerophrys pusilla)
Sclerophrys fuliginata
Sclerophrys garmani
Sclerophrys lemairii
Sclerophrys urunguensis
Mertensophryne taitana
Poyntonophrynus vertebralis
Poyntonophrynus fenoulheti

Let us know if we have missed out any reptiles or amphibians that can be found in Zambia and we will include them on our lists.