Only 500 of These Beautiful Snakes Believed to Exist in the Wild in China
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NEW YORK, Nov. 10, 2023 -- Mangshan pit vipers (Protobothrops mangshanensis) are seldom encountered in the wild, but visitors to the Bronx Zoo now have an opportunity to observe a hatchling in the nursery at the World of Reptiles.
Among the world’s rarest snake species, the venomous, vividly colored Mangshan pit viper was only discovered in 1990 and is believed to exist in the wild solely within a 115-square-mile (300-square-kilometer) area of densely forested mountains in southeast China, specifically in the Hunan and Guangdong provinces. The snake gets its name from the Mangshan Mountain in Mangshan National Forest Park.
Mangshan pit vipers are exceptionally beautiful, with scales that form patchworks of varying hues of green, which helps camouflage them in the forest.
There are only an estimated 500 Mangshan pit vipers believed to exist in the wild, which makes this breeding at the zoo of particular importance. Magnshan pit vipers are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Wild populations are declining due to habitat loss, illegal collection for the pet trade, and other risks. There are approximately 150 Mangshan pit vipers in zoos in the United States and Europe.
The Bronx Zoo began a husbandry program for Mangshan pit vipers in 2011. On August 7 this year, the zoo successfully hatched two of the vipers for the first time. This is significant to our conservation efforts as they increase the genetic diversity and support the sustainability of this endangered species. One of the hatchlings can be seen in the World of Reptiles nursery, and both are currently about eight inches long and will grow to just over 6 feet as adults. In addition to the hatchling in the nursery, an adult pair of Mangshan pit vipers can also be seen in the World of Reptiles. In total, the zoo has 11 Mangshan pit vipers in its breeding program.
Pit vipers are so named due to the pits between their eyes and nostrils that act as heat sensors to aid in accurately striking prey. Mangshan pit vipers also have a light color tip to their tails that they use in a caudal display that mimics a worm as bait to attract potential prey. This species is unique in that they are one of the few pit vipers that lay eggs.
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