New snake looks fierce, has horns

2012-01-11 17:38

Nairobi - The world's newest snake has menacing-looking yellow and black scales, dull green eyes and two spiky horns. And it's named after a 7-year-old girl.

Matilda's Horned Viper was discovered in a small patch of southwest Tanzania about two years ago and was introduced in December as the world's newest known snake species in an issue of Zootaxa.

Tim Davenport, the director of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Tanzania, was on the three-person team that discovered the viper. Thanks to his daughter, the snake will always carry a family namesake.

"My daughter, who was 5 at the time, became fascinated by it and used to love spending time watching it and helping us look after it," Davenport said on Wednesday. "We called it Matilda's Viper at that stage... and then the name stuck."

Only three new vipers have been discovered across Africa the last three decades, making the find rare and important. The Wildlife Conservation Society is not revealing exactly where the snake lives so that trophy hunters can't hunt it.


Davenport said he is not sure how many live in the wild because snake counts are hard to do. Twelve live in captivity and a breeding plan is being carried out.

Davenport, a Briton who has lived in Tanzania for 12 years, said that while many people fear snakes, most are harmless and help keep rodent numbers down. Matilda's horned viper can grow to 65cm or bigger, he said.

"This particular animal looks fierce and probably is venomous [though bush viper bites are not fatal]," Davenport said.

"However, it is actually very calm animal and not at all aggressive. I have handled one on a number of occasions."

The Wildlife Conservation Society runs the Bronx Zoo and the Central Park Zoo in New York, and Davenport said it would be a "great option" to showcase the new horned viper at one of those locations, but that nothing has yet been decided.

  • Castle - 2012-01-11 17:58

    soon humans will be found with scales and horns...

  • Craig - 2012-01-11 18:28

    Can u get it to bite you to see if its poisonous??

      cwboshoff - 2012-01-12 09:13

      Yeah, they've been studying it for a while now, i'd think the first thing you do when you find a new species of any kind, you first find out how dangerous it is.....

  • TheWatcher - 2012-01-11 19:22

    I'm glad the name stuck. That's something to tell your kids(and grandchildren) one day...

  • Julie - 2012-01-12 12:34

    Nice specimen - probably mildly venomous. As for the horns - I know there is a horned adder - I think in the Arizona desert in the USA - seem to remember seeing it in that magnificent Walt Disney movie, The Living Desert. This was the first of his series of wildlife movies dating back to around 1955 or thereabouts, but try as I might, I just cannot get it on DVD... In conclusion - I like snakes, but I also respect them, but I admit to being terrified of spiders - my house is not big enough for spider - regardless of the species - and myself, hence one has to go, and no prizes for guessing who goes...

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