Two recently-arrived Mangshan pit vipers, one of the world’s rarest and most colorful species of snake, are just a subway ride away in the Bronx.
The new hatchlings were born this past Aug. 7 at the Bronx Zoo, with one of the pair now housed in the nursery at the facility’s World of Reptiles with a pair of adult Mangshan vipers, the facility said in a Friday news release. The venomous snakes were only discovered in 1990 and are believed to live solely inside a densely forested 115-square-mile stretch of mountains in Southeast China.
Zoo officials described the pit viper as an endangered and “exceptionally beautiful” creature, with its scales forming camouflage patchworks in various colors of green for protection in the forest and a light-colored tip to their tales. The zoo said there are currently just 500 Mangshan pit vipers believed to exist in the wild, and the creatures are listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, with habitat loss and illegal abductions cited for their dwindling numbers.
The creature’s name comes from the pits between its eyes and nostrils, which act as heat sensors as they hunt prey. The species is also one of the few pit vipers that lay eggs.
The Bronx facility began a husbandry program for the snakes in 2011, with this year’s arrivals greeted as the firstborn from the effort. The pair of three-month-old snakes, currently about eight inches long, would typically grow to just over six feet as adults, the zoo said, and there are there were roughly 150 of the Mangshan vipers in zoos across Europe and in the United States.
The zoo’s breeding program for the snakes now includes 11 of the pit vipers, with the facility hoping to “increase the genetic diversity and support the sustainability of this endangered species,” the zoo said.