On your next visit to the Zoo, meander through Rainforest Revealed to the Venom House to see if you can spot three young eyelash vipers! This species, which is one of the smallest venomous snake species in Central America, can be easily recognized by the bristly scales above their eyes, hence the name.
You may remember that in the fall of 2019, while finishing construction on this Latin American-themed section of the Zoo, we welcomed several new slithering species. Included in the bunch were seven eyelash vipers that came to us from an AZA-accredited facility—one unrelated adult female and six young siblings.
At the time of their arrival, the six babies—born in January of 2019—weighed between 10 and 15 grams each. After discussion between our animal and veterinary teams, we made the decision to keep the young vipers in a behind-the-scenes area of the Zoo until they were large enough to safely inhabit the Venom House.
This decision was made for a couple of reasons. First, the snakes were so small that physically locating them in such a large, complex habitat would have been very difficult for our animal care staff, making caring for them challenging.
Additionally, because we didn’t know the sex of the snakes at the time—all snakes store their reproductive organs internally—we wanted to be sure that we did not put individuals of the opposite sex on habitat together to prevent inbreeding. Even if the young vipers were not all related, our main habitat is not a good place to breed this species… because it’s too big and complex! Can you imagine trying to locate an unknown number (possibly thirty or more) of liveborn, venomous snakes that only weigh three grams?
After living (and growing) behind the scenes for two years, we were finally able to reliably determine the sex of our six young vipers: three males and three females.
Earlier this month, we cautiously introduced the three young females to the habitat’s other residents, a group of poison dart frogs. The adult female eyelash viper is currently living behind the scenes as she undergoes a shedding cycle and will soon be introduced to the trio of female babies, who are now living in the left node of the Venom House full time! Because we have no plans to breed this species and to avoid inbreeding, the three males will be transferred to other facilities in the near future.
Come see our three young females on your next Zoo visit!
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