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Nine adorable venomous vipers born at St. Louis Zoo

Nine endangered vipers were born at the St. Louis Zoo in August, an event that the zoo has called a significant moment inits efforts to save the endangered snake.

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Nine endangered vipers were born at the St. Louis Zoo in August.

Mark Wanner/St. Louis Zoo

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Nine endangered vipers were born at the St. Louis Zoo in August, an event that the zoo has called a significant moment in its efforts to rescue the venomous species from the brink of extinction.

Born on August 16 as part of a breeding program, the nine babies are ocellate mountain vipers, or Montivipera wagneri, a species native to eastern Turkey and northwestern Iran. Believed extinct for some 140 years, the snake was "rediscovered" in the Turkish mountains in 1983. The find was ambiguously happy for conservationists: the snake was alive, but collectors soon besieged the area, putting the already rare snake back into the red zone.

Over the past 15 to 20 years, the ocellate mountain viper population has dropped an estimated 80 percent, though exact population demographics are not known, says Jeff Ettling, Curator of Herpetology & Aquatics at the St. Louis Zoo.

"Vipers are considered by many experts to be one of the most endangered groups of snakes in the world," writes Dr. Ettling, in an email. "Many viper species, such as the Ocellate Mountain Viper have small, fragmented distributions which make them particularly vulnerable to extinction due to habitat alteration/degradation, human persecution and over-collection for the exotic pet trade."

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