November 25, 2020

New snake in Tanzania: ‘Fierce, probably venomous’

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — 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 seven-year-old girl.

Matilda’s Horned Viper was discovered in a small patch of southwest Tanzania about two years ago and was introduced last month 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 told The Associated Press 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.

Matilda’s horned viper can grow to 2 feet (65 centimeters) or bigger, he said.

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