Environment & Science

LA Zoo welcomes more than 50 baby snakes, 2 new deadly species

Los Angeles Zoo baby Cape cobra.
Los Angeles Zoo baby Cape cobra.
Tad Motoyama
Los Angeles Zoo baby Cape cobra.
Los Angeles Zoo Ethiopian mountain viper.
Tad Motoyama


The Los Angeles Zoo welcomed the birth of more than 50 baby snakes earlier this week after a year-long effort coaxing adult snakes to reproduce in captivity at the zoo's LAIR (Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles) exhibit.

The offspring were born to six different species, some of which are rare and endangered — including Armenian vipers, black-tailed horned vipers and Aruba island rattlesnakes.

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Zoo curator Ian Recchio told KPCC that breeding snakes isn't an easy task. The process to try replicating the species' natural mating habitat can be extensive. Snakes like the Armenian vipers are accustomed to reproducing in the snow.

"We cooled them down close to freezing, then we slowly bring them up to a temperature where they would breed at," he said. "So it's a big process... and these are the things that stimulate the snakes to produce sex cells and reproduce properly. You just don't put them together and hope for the best."

If the image of baby snakes doesn't alleviate your fear of the cold-blooded reptiles, a full-grown snake might not do much either — but Recchio thinks they're still a must-see in the exhibit. 

“[There are] a lot of strange and unusual things to see, but I think when you come here, you may be frightened by some of the animals on the surface — but then when you walk out, you’ll have a greater appreciation, so that’s kind of the goal," Recchio said. 

The Cape cobra and the Ethiopian mountain viper can now also call the zoo their home. While both African species are dangerous and venomous, they're crucial to the ecosystem, Recchio said. Visitors will get the chance to get up close with the rare vipers and cobras — through a thick layer of glass, of course. 

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Even so, these species are so rare, they're worth a peek, Recchio said. There are only a couple of Ethiopian mountain vipers on the globe. 

“There’s nothing like it in the world. It looks almost like an afghan rug — [it has] this beautiful pattern made to mimic the leaf [they hunt in]," he said. 

The cobra, meanwhile, is polymorphic — which means they can be found in a variety of patterns and colors. The zoo's cobra wears a yellow and muted brown, Recchio said. 

If you still aren't convinced, try checking out other amphibians you might not see anywhere else, including giant salamanders from China. At four feet long, they're the world's largest amphibians.