(Curator of Invertebrates & Reptiles, Los Angeles Zoo)
6.10 – Aliens & Insects (3.7.14)
6.16 – The Reptilians (7.25.14)
L.A. Zoo Celebrates Most Successful Breeding Season of Rare and Endangered Snake Species – Over 60 Babies!
October 26, 2017
The Zoo’s Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles (LAIR) program welcomed a record-breaking 61 snake babies this summer and fall, making it the most successful breeding season at the L.A. Zoo to date. The list of rare and endangered snake babies includes Armenian vipers, black-tailed horned vipers, European nose-horned vipers, Santa Catalina Island rattleless rattlesnakes, Aruba island rattlesnakes, banded rock rattlesnakes, and southwestern speckled rattlesnakes.
“The staff at the LAIR has a special talent when it comes to breeding snakes,” said Ian Recchio, Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians at the Los Angeles Zoo. “The fact that our numbers continue to increase each breeding season is the result of years of observation, tinkering with new breeding tactics, and doing our best to mimic a snake’s natural habitat in the wild.”
Over five years ago, LAIR staff embarked on a plan to create an environment that best replicates the mountainous, rocky crevices where most of their rare and endangered snakes make their den during the coldest part of winter. Staff purchased a scientific refrigerator, typically used for storing pharmaceuticals, to house the snakes during the four months of the year they go through brumation, or a hibernation-like state necessary for successful breeding.
The scientific refrigerator is located in the LAIR’s hibernation room, a behind-the-scenes room stacked wall-to-wall with sleeping snakes. Staff begins cycling adult snakes into brumation in mid-to-late November by taking preparatory measures such as ceasing their feedings, soaking them in water so they are well hydrated, and cleaning out their gut of feces so there are no traces of food left. Temperatures in the hibernaculum are generally brought down to a chilling 55 degrees, but some snakes need temperatures brought down close to freezing. In early Spring staff begins warming up the snake’s chambers and waking them up so that they can be put into breeding pairs again. The entire cycle was made to replicate the snake’s natural environment and circumstances they would experience in nature.
As each new season brings a surplus of snake babies, the LAIR increases the number of species sent to other Zoos as a part of several Species Survival Plans (SSP) among accredited Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) facilities.
“Every season we are sending rare and endangered snake species to Zoos across the country and the world,” said Recchio. “We are committed to strengthening the numbers for a lot of these species that are critically endangered, but we’re also excited for guests far and wide to see these unique creatures up close since they may never have the chance in the wild.”