A new species of snake, Matilda’s horned viper (Atheris matilde), was recently discovered in a small forested patch of Southern Tanzania. Unfortunately, the snake—a yellow and black bush viper—is believed to be critically endangered because loggers are destroying its already-small habitat.
Scientists are keeping the snake’s exact location a secret in order to protect it from black market pet dealers. The wildlife trade is estimated to be around 159 billion dollars a year, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, making it second only to the illegal drug trade in terms of size. Snakes, especially bush vipers, are popular pets in many countries, and the initial rush to acquire this new species would drive it even closer to extinction.
In order to ensure the species’ survival, scientists have started a captive breeding program. In addition to hiding the snakes’ location, the first few dozen offspring will be given away to captive breeders. “The aim is to avoid collection of wild caught specimens, lower the price of the animal and encourage responsible captive breeding by keepers in the most highly demanding countries," says Tim Davenport of the Wildlife Conservation Society. Davenport hopes that this outreach to animal enthusiasts will raise awareness for the conservation of this new species.
(For more on amazing species discovered in 2011, click here.)