Sunday, December 18, 2011

New Horned Viper Species Discovered in Tanzania; Location Kept Secret

The Matilda's horned viper

It has been recently reported that scientists have discovered a new species of horned viper in a remote forest in Tanzania. This remarkable viper was called Matilda's horned viper, a name given by one of the discoverers Tim Davenport's daughter. It  measured up to two feet in length, and has evolved from its closest ancestor over two million years ago. However, this uniquely-colored snake is said to survive in a small fragment of habitat and is believed to be a critically endangered species. Therefore, its discoverers are now working to protect the species from any would-be threats. Part of the protection to ensure its survival is to keep the location a secret, but the team has also established an emergency conservation program.
Head study of the Matilda's horned viper

In order to keep the species safe, researchers have collected eleven snakes for captive breeding. These include four males, five females, and two juveniles. The offspring are also a guarantee against extinction. The researchers say that they are going one step further to anticipate the illegal pet trade. Mr. Davenport explained that he and the team are planning to make first few dozen offspring available from their captive population, in order to provide the market with captive-bred specimens. He further added that the goal is to avoid collecting wild specimens, lower the animal's price, and encourage responsible captive breeding in countries where the demand is high. Mr. Davenport also stated that the ultimate aim is to raise awareness and support for a community-based forest conservation program.
Matilda's horned viper showing off its distinctive color pattern

I find this discovery to be a very remarkable moment for the world of wildlife and conservation. This horned viper is truly one of the most fascinating serpents on the face of the earth. For example, it is closely related to the local forest horned viper but is larger in size, has a more unique coloration, and even a distinctive scale pattern on its head. In addition to that, genetic testing has shown that this snake can be separated by 2.2 million years ago. I also find this technique of keeping the location of the viper's discovery a secret from the outside world interesting. In fact, I think it is one effective method in order to protect a certain species from threats from the brink of extinction. While it is not clear how many total individuals maybe inhabiting the area, surveys by these researchers have shown that this viper survives in an area smaller than hundred square kilometers. Therefore, it was crucial for them to keep the location a secret. I also believe that a technique like this should be implemented in other parts of the world known for their diversity in wildlife. This way, it would allow scientists, conservationists, and other wildlife officials to conduct conservation efforts to save the wildlife from any potential man-made threats.
A Matilda's horned viper in its habitat

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