Welcome to Snakes of Central and Western Africa, a multi-access key for the identification of West and Central African snake genera.

This key is designed to aid in snake identifications made using the book Snakes of Central and Western Africa by Jean-Philippe Chippaux and Kate Jackson, but can be used independently in order to identify Western and Central African snakes to the genus level. Users wishing to identify snakes down to the species level should request Snakes of Central and Western Africa through their library system, or purchase a copy of the book:

Snakes of Central and Western Africa

How to Use this Key

This key can be used to determine the genus of any snake from West and Central Africa by following these 5 steps:

  1. Check the Zone Map and locality data for your snake to make sure that your snake was collected within the zone covered in this key.
  2. Open the Character Glossary and the Key.
  3. Using the Character Glossary as a reference, select states for as many characters as possible in the Features Available window (upper left) of the Key Player. As you make selections, you will notice the list of possible genera grow shorter in the Entities Remaining window (upper right). You can review and change your selections in the Features Chosen window (lower left), and review the eliminated genera in the Entities Discarded window (lower right). *A recommended starting point is "Head Scale Shape"*
  4. Once you have only a single genus remaining in the Entities Remaining window (upper right), follow the links in the key OR look up the genus description in Snakes of Central and Western Africa to read descriptions and view photos of the genus in order to confirm your identification. If you are unable to arrive at a single genus, follow the links for the few remaining genera and use the descriptions, photographs, and locality data to complete your identification.
  5. To continue your identification down to the species level, use the dichotomous key following the genus description in Snakes of Central and Western Africa. Read the species description and consult the photographs, line drawing, and range map to confirm your identification.

Zone of Coverage

This key covers a large area of Western and Central Africa, from Angola in the South to Niger in the North, and Rwanda in the East to Senegal in the West, as depicted in the Zone Map below in the green area:

Map of zone of coverage

Political map of zone covered by this key. All snakes originating from any of these countries can be identified with this tool.

Coverage Data:

Area: 26 Countries 12,604,151 km2
Taxa: 62 Genera 248 Species


The main key was built using Lucid 3.5, which has a detailed and useful manual that can be found by clicking on the help icon at the far right of the Button Bar at the top of the screen. In order to view the help page, you will need to disable your internet browser's pop-up blocker.

The Instructions page has more detailed information and an example which you can consult for more detailed directions.

In the event that the Lucid Key is nonfunctional, or if you want to download a key for use offline, a backup key has been made and can be downloaded here. This key was created in Microsoft Excel 2010, so software able to open .xlsx files is required to use this key. The technique used to develop this multi-access key has been submitted as an article to Herpetological Review in May '17.


For technical problems regarding the keys or the website, please contact:

Eric Hsu
Research Assistant
Biology Department
Class of 2017
Whitman College
E-mail: hsuer@whitman.edu

For taxonomic questions or questions about African snakes, please contact:

Kate Jackson
Associate Professor
Biology Department
Whitman College
E-mail: jacksok@whitman.edu
Web-site: http://people.whitman.edu/~jacksok/
Snail mail:
365 Boyer Avenue
Walla Walla, WA — 99362