Nine Endangered Ocellate Mountain Vipers Born at St. Louis Zoo

First Posted: Sep 04, 2013 07:10 AM EDT

The St Louis Zoo announced the birth of nine rare mountain vipers, native to Turkey, Thursday.

These nine rare mountain vipers were born on August 16. St. Louis Zoo is a part of a cooperative breeding and conservation program for these extinct species. The zoo's vipers were bred on the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan.

The birth of these rare snakes is an extension of the zoo's preservation work with a close relative of ocellate mountain viper called 'Armenian viper', according to the Associated Press.

The Ocellate Mountain Vipers (Montivipera wagneri) dwell in the regions of eastern Turkey and northwestern Iran. They are mostly found in mountainous areas and stay in dry and warm slopes where the temperatures drop at night. The species was believed to be extinct for more than 140 years. It was listed as an endangered species after it was re-discovered in eastern Turley in 1983. The vipers are characterized by a large head and grayish color and yellow brown or orange spots that run from head to tail.  

"The re-discovery of this rare snake led to severe over-collecting by European and Turkish snake collectors. This is a serious threat for the future survival of the species, which has already been wiped out in much of its very small range," according to St. Louis Zoo.

There are only three zoos in the U.S. that maintain the species. There are totally 28 snakes living in the country out of which St. Louis Zoo houses 23 snakes including the nine newly born snakes, reports KTVI.

"With a strong history of caring for this species, the Zoo found value in focusing its conservation efforts on a group largely ignored by other zoological institutions. Our studies of mountain vipers in our care have already provided useful information on reproduction and behavior of these poorly known species" said Jeff Ettling, Ph.D., Curator of Herpetology & Aquatics at the Zoo, and Director of both the Center for Conservation in Western Asia.

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