Kansas’s Sedgwick County Zoo had a total of 4 Cape Coral Cobra eggs hatch last week! This is their second successful year of hatching coral cobras, last year’s adolescents are currently on exhibit. These venomous, burrowing snakes are native to South Africa.
The Los Angeles Zoo is celebrating the arrival of two tropical Snake species and a Blue-throated Macaw, one of the rarest birds in the world.
Eight Bushmasters, which are venomous Pit Vipers native to Central and South America, hatched in December (second photo from top). This is the fourth clutch of this species to hatch at the Los Angeles Zoo since the first pair of Bushmasters arrived at there in 2008. The little hatchlings will eventually grow six to 10 feet long and weigh up to 15 pounds. Bushmasters inhabit forests and though their bites can be fatal, these Snakes are rarely encountered by humans.
Unlike Bushmasters, which hatch from eggs, a Mangrove Viper gave birth to five babies on December 26 (third photo from top). In Snakes that give birth to live offspring, the eggs are held inside the body until they hatch, resulting in live birth. This is the first time Mangrove Vipers have reproduced at the zoo. Mangrove Vipers are venomous Pit Vipers that live in India, Bangladesh, and Southeast Asia.
Staff working behind the scenes at the Avian Conservation Center are hand-rearing a Blue-throated Macaw chick that hatched in December (top photo). Normally, the chick’s parents would care for and feed the chick, but they experienced some minor health issues that required medication and could not feed their baby. Staff took over and offer food via a syringe several times a day.
Found only in a small region of Bolivia, fewer than 250 Blue-throated Macaws live in the wild. In the past, these Macaws were heavily exploited for the pet trade. Though this practice has been greatly reduced, trapping still occurs. Today, the Macaws' biggest threat comes from clearing of suitable nesting and feeding trees. These birds are listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
See more photos of the Macaw chick and a Bushmaster hatching from its egg below.
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is celebrating the successful hatching of two Louisiana Pine Snakes. Considered the rarest snake in North America, the species is found only in a few areas in Western Louisiana and bordering counties of Texas.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens participates in a cooperative Louisiana Pine Snake reintroduction program by partnering with other zoos to breed the critically endangered species and then release the hatchlings into the wild to bolster native populations.
The Louisiana Pine Snake spends a lot of time in and around the burrows of pocket gophers – its main food source. The species is a non-venomous constrictor in the same family as Bull Snakes.
Louisiana Pine Snakes lay the largest eggs of any North American snake but have an average clutch size of only 3-4. By comparison, Rat Snakes found in the same habitat can produce as many as 24 eggs. Because of its small clutch size, coupled with threats including habitat loss and vehicle mortality, the Louisiana Pine Snake is in decline in the wild. Joint efforts by zoos are an important component of the conservation of the species.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is celebrating the hatching of two Eastern Indigo Snakes. The hatchlings emerged on July 10 and 11, and they mark the first time the Zoo hatched this vulnerable species since 1997.
The species is listed as “Threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, and population numbers are decreasing rapidly in its native range of the southeastern United States due to habitat loss.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens recognized the importance of increasing the population of Eastern Indigo Snakes, and in 2012 received a pair with a breeding recommendation. The snakes recently reached sexual maturity and the female laid her first clutch. Eastern Indigos, while nonvenomous, can be both territorial and voracious eaters, so the breeding pair was only together for a brief time.
According to the Zoo’s Deputy Director for Animal Care & Conservation, Dan Maloney, “We are very proud and excited to welcome such significant new additions to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens family. Six years ago, we acquired young snakes in hopes that they would be future parents. To finally have healthy hatchlings is extremely satisfying and lays the foundation for a successful, sustainable breeding program.”
The two hatchlings emerged from their 4-inch eggs after a 100-day incubation. They are 13-inches long now but will quickly grow into the longest native snake species in the United States.
Eastern Indigo Snakes are a top predator and have a wildly varied diet consisting of everything from small mammals, birds, and amphibians, all the way up to one of their favorite prey items, Eastern Diamond Rattlesnakes.
The decline of rattlesnake and Gopher Tortoise populations is contributing to the rapid decline in Eastern Indigo Snakes. Gopher Tortoise burrows serve as an important shelter for the snakes in winter months. These three threatened animals are linked by their habits and habitats, and their decline helps highlight the importance of keystone species to entire ecosystems.
The Zoo hopes that the new hatchlings can serve as ambassadors for local conservation efforts and reinforce our message of Living Well With Wildlife.
The mother of the two hatchlings can be viewed in the Wild Florida herpetology house. She shares her enclosure with a Box Turtle and a three-legged, rescued Gopher Tortoise.
Six Sidewinders were born on May 24 at Zoo Atlanta. The young Sidewinders currently live in the Zoo’s Conservation Breeding Center, a behind-the-scenes complex adjacent to Scaly Slimy Spectacular: The Amphibian and Reptile Experience.
The Sidewinder (Crotalus cerastes), also known as the horned rattlesnake and sidewinder rattlesnake, is a venomous pit viper species belonging to the genus Crotalus (rattlesnakes). It is a North American native found in the Mohave and Sonoran Deserts of the southwestern United States. Known for its unique form of locomotion, it is the fastest moving of all rattlesnakes.
They are venomous, but possess less potent venom than many other rattlesnakes. Their venom glands are also a smaller size, which makes them less dangerous than their larger relatives. However, any rattlesnake bite can be fatal and should be taken seriously with medical attention sought immediately.
Females produce an average of about ten per litter. The young are born enveloped in thin embryonic membranes, from which they emerge shortly after being expelled from the mother. The young stay with their mother in a burrow for seven to 10 days, shed for the first time, then leave their natal burrow. During this time with their mother, she will guard and protect them from predators.
Sidewinders mature at two to three years of age, are capable of reproducing annually.
Sidewinders have an accelerated lifecycle, with natural life expectancies of females to be about five years. Males have a maximum known natural lifespan of about 13 years. However, Sidewinders can live more than 20 years, when well fed, in captivity (including the females).
Sidewinders are currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. In the wild, females often die of exhaustion after giving birth, but the lives of sidewinders are also cut short by predation, diseases, and vehicle encounters.
Research collaboration between Zoo Atlanta, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Carnegie Mellon University has examined the snakes’ distinctive sidewinding movements for biologically inspired design of prototypes for search-and-exploration robots. Learn more about this study at: www.zooatlanta.org/research .
Two deadly African Snake species have taken up residence at the Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles (LAIR) exhibit at the Los Angeles Zoo for the first time in the Zoo’s history. The Zoo also welcomed a baby boom of 50 plus snakes from six different species.
Perhaps the most well known of the new inhabitants are a pair of Cape Cobras, a highly venomous species of cobra found across southern Africa that is known to raise its fore-body off the ground and spread its hood when feeling nervous or threatened.
“We’re really excited to welcome this species of snake to the collection for the first time,” said Ian Recchio, Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians at the Los Angeles Zoo. “Our visitors often ask if we have cobras because they are a popular and highly-recognizable species of snake, and now we can offer our guests the chance to safely view one of nature’s most unique animals.”
One of the deadliest snake species in Africa, the Cape Cobra’s powerful neurotoxic venom is the most potent of any African Cobra and when bitten, victims require urgent hospitalization and treatment. This particular species of cobra is also highly polymorphic and can come in a variety of vibrant patterns and colors including speckled polka dots, lemon yellow, and different shades of brown and gray. The LAIR now has two Cape Cobras: a young sibling pair from Zoo Atlanta, which are a unique yellowish-beige in color and three feet long.
Also from Africa, the LAIR now exhibits four extraordinarily rare Ethiopian Mountain Vipers, born at the San Diego Zoo. Found only in remote areas in Ethiopia, there is very little known about the natural history of this highly venomous species. And, like the Cape Cobra, its appearance is also very striking and unique with beautiful lemon yellow and black geometric patterns on their bodies.
The LAIR has also experienced a baby boom with over 50 snake babies, recently born to six different species. The list of rare and endangered snake babies includes: Armenian Vipers, Black-tailed Horned Vipers, Catalina Rattle-less Rattlesnakes, Aruba Island Rattlesnakes, Baja California Rat Snakes, and Southwest Speckled Rattlesnakes.
Photo Credits: Tad Motoyama (Image 1: Cape Cobra / Image 2: Ethiopian Mountain Viper / Image 3: Armenian Viper / Image 4: Black-tailed Horned Viper / Image 5: Catalina Rattle-less Rattlesnake / Image 6: Aruba Island Rattlesnake / Image 7: Baja California Rat Snake / Image 8: Southwest Speckled Rattlesnake )
The most likely reason for the influx in babies this season is the years of preparation and extraordinary work that the L.A. Zoo’s LAIR staff has put into understanding and raising these rare and endangered snake species. The team has endeavored to find the formula that worked best for the collection.
“The staff at LAIR has a special talent when it comes to breeding snakes and lizards,” said Recchio. “The baby boom we are experiencing now is the result of years of observation, tinkering with new breeding tactics, and doing our best to mimic a snake’s natural habitat in the wild.”
The Cincinnati Zoo is celebrating a baby bonanza – dozens of babies have been born at the zoo in the past few months. In fact, there are so many babies that the zoo is celebrating “Zoo Babies” month in May.
All the little ones have kept their parents – and zoo keepers – busy. The three female African Lion cubs are particularly feisty, testing their “grrrl” power on a daily basis with their father John and mother Imani.
Other babies include three Bonobos, two Gorillas, a Bongo, a Serval, two Capybaras, a Rough Green Snake, Giant Spiny Leaf Insects, Thorny Devils, Little Penguin chicks and Kea chicks. “This is the largest and most varied group of babies we’ve had. We’re particularly excited about the successes we’ve had with the endangered African Painted Dogs and the hard-to-breed Kea,” said Thane Maynard, Cincinnati Zoo Executive Director.
See more photos of Cincinnati's Zoo's babies below.
Cotswold Wildlife Park, in the UK, is experiencing a summer baby boom of the cold blooded variety. The Reptile Section is awash with new births, including some of the smallest newborns in the entire collection. These include: four Mangrove Snakes (bred for the first time at the Park), six Blood Pythons, three Crested Geckos, four Asian Giant Forest Scorpions and a multitude of Lyretail and Checkerboard Cichlids.
Curator of Cotswold Wildlife Park, Jamie Craig, said, “The Keepers at the Park are delighted with the boom in births and hatchlings in the Reptile House. It is a real achievement to breed some of these species and a testament to the hard work and dedication of the Reptile Department in species that do not always get the same attention as the cute and cuddly!”
Three Crested Gecko babies were hatched on July 10th. Geckos are one of the most diverse groups of lizards on Earth and are an incredible example of animal engineering. The ribbed flesh on their toes enables them to scale vertical surfaces, even polished glass! Engineers with the US Department of Defense’s research project, DARPA, have been looking into creating ‘bio-inspired’ gloves for soldiers based on the Gecko’s ribbed toes.
The new breeding pair of Mangrove Snakes has successfully produced young for the first time. Two yellow and black striped snakes hatched in June. These reptiles are brilliantly camouflaged in the brightly sunlit, leafy mangrove habitat, making them masters of disguise in the wild. The Park’s Blood Pythons also produced six young.
An unexpected birth came from a new species to the collection, the Asian Giant Forest Scorpion. Keepers were pleasantly surprised when the female produced young just weeks after arriving at the Park. The young are born one by one after hatching and expelling the embryonic membrane. The brood is carried on the mother’s back until the young have undergone at least one molt.
Meanwhile, the Insect and Invertebrate House has seen multiple fish births of two species of Lake Tanganyika Cichlids. The Park’s Lyretail and Checkerboard Cichlids have recently produced young. These fish are secretive shelter spawners, and their fry are smaller than a grain of rice.
See more photos below the fold.
The Phoenix Zoo’s Arthur L. and Elaine V. Johnson Foundation Native Species Conservation Center has announced the first-ever propagation of the threatened Narrow-headed Gartersnake (Thamnophis rufipunctatus).
In 2007, the Zoo received a small research population of wild-caught Narrow-headed Gartersnakes in hopes of developing a propagation and release program. On the morning of July 2, 2014, a four-year-old gave birth to 18 neonates in the Zoo’s specially designed outdoor Suzan L. Biehler Herpetarium. All 18 offspring are healthy and were observed capturing live fish within 48 hours. This reproductive event is the culmination of years of husbandry work and scientific research by the Zoo’s conservation staff. This significant birth comes at a critical time since on July 7, 2014 the species was listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. The Zoo has also developed a husbandry manual for this species that is currently in use by members of the GCWG.
“The birth of the Narrow-headed Gartersnakes here is a fulfillment of Phoenix Zoo’s commitment to supporting native species conservation and recovery”, says Stuart Wells, Director of Conservation sand Science at the Phoenix Zoo. “Our dedicated staff has worked tirelessly for many years to achieve this goal. We are proud of this accomplishment and pleased to contribute to the recovery of this species." The Narrow-headed Gartersnake is a unique, highly aquatic species. Its numbers have been declining throughout its range in Arizona and New Mexico for over a decade. Many factors are contributing to the decline including drought, non-native invasive species, wildfire and agricultural/urban encroachment. Beginning in 2006, the Gartersnake Conservation Working Group (GCWG), a multi-partner, collaborative effort, was formed by US Fish and Wildlife Service to help conserve and recover the northern Mexican gartersnake and the Narrow-headed Gartersnake.
“The Narrow-headed Gartersnake is a mid- to high-elevation, stream-dwelling species that is very sensitive to environmental and physical stress”, explains Jeff Servoss, US Fish and Wildlife Service Chair of the Gartersnake Conservation Working Group. “These traits make this species a unique challenge for those trying to not only keep them alive in captivity, but also trying to produce offspring. After many years of trying, by many different institutions, the Phoenix Zoo has finally produced viable Narrow-headed Gartersnakes. This achievement is very noteworthy and a testament to the Zoo's relentless effort to identify the variables that have prevented breeding in the past. This is a significant achievement and a giant step forward for gartersnake conservation." The offspring are being head-started for a period of six to nine months before the majority is released to the wild. The remaining few will be retained for the breeding program. The Zoo is proud of this accomplishment and appreciates the opportunity to support the conservation of wildlife in Arizona and throughout the world.
The newest additions to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo were a surprise even to the keepers: eight Tentacled Snakes were born October 21 to parents that have not produced viable young in the past four years, despite breeding attempts. Tentacled Snakes are aquatic, produce live young and are ambush hunters. They use their tails to anchor themselves and wait underwater for their prey. They get their name from the unique tentacles that protrude from their snout and function as sensory mechanisms that allow the reptiles to pick up vibrations from fish that swim by.
“Within a few hours of being born, the snakes were already acting like adults,” said Matt Evans, Reptile Discovery Center keeper. “Instincts took over and they were hunting. We don’t know much about this cryptic species, but we’re already learning so much just watching them grow.”
Tentacled Snakes are native to the mangrove swamps of southeast Asia. They can remain underwater for up to 30 minutes. Known as rear-fanged snakes, their venomous fangs are located in the back of the mouth. They are not considered dangerous to humans.
The zoo’s four adult snakes are on exhibit at the Reptile Discovery Center, while the eight young snakes will likely be sent to other zoos when they get older. Only a few zoos exhibit this species, which is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).Photo Credit: Brittany Steff, Smithsonian’s National Zoo.