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Most of the time when we report on zoo and nature preserve births, it’s for cute and cuddly animals that are popular with children, like pandas. We also tend to cover any weird or unique animals at the zoo, including the two-headed turtle that was recently put on display in San Antonio, Texas. Today, however, we are reporting on nine venomous snakes of the baby ocellate mountain viper variety, hatched at the St. Louis Zoo. The snakes were born a couple of weeks ago, on August 16, and their birth is notable because at one point in time, the scientific community would have procreating impossible.
The snakes are actually native to Northern Turkey. The species was considered extinct for many years thanks to a labeling snafu. After 140 years of fraudulent extinction, in 1983, scientists rediscovered the ocellate mountain viper and the rest is history. Though scientists now know the snake exists, it’s still a rare breed. The Curator of Herpetology & Aquatics at the St. Louis Zoo, Jeff Ettling, recently told the local Fox station that the zoo is only one of handful in the United States that have holdings of the snakes.
“There are only three zoos in the United States that maintain that species and we have the largest number. There are a total of 28 of them in the country and we have 23 right here, which includes the nine new babies.”
Those numbers mean the St. Louis Zoo has more of the ocellate mountain viper snake than anywhere in the U.S. Regardless, the zoo is very careful with how they handle and treat the creatures. The snakes are kept in a room known as “the viper room”, and they have been for sometime. While interacting with the reptiles, employees need to tread very carefully. Ettling recently reminded the news outlet that the snakes are venomous and can easily poison any employees who are not being careful with their body parts.
“Please don’t put your arm up against the top of the enclosure because these guys have fangs that hinge outwards they can actually go right through the screen if they want to. So they can get you even though you’re on the outside of the enclosure.”
And some folks wonder why snakes get a bad rap. Still, it’s a noble goal to help a species to thrive and survive, especially a rare one like the ocellate mountain viper, which has been decimated thanks to snake collectors around the world. Maybe the nine baby snakes will be able to change some people’s minds about the slithery creatures, or maybe they'll just continue creeping people out. Either way, they're no doubt pleased about increasing their numbers, and one would imagine Voldemort feels the same way.
Photo Credit: Mark Wanner/ St. Louis Zoo