The City News Service of Los Angeles Reports in the Los Angeles Daily News that eight baby vipers were born at the Los Angeles Zoo this month, marking the first successful births resulting from the zoo’s effort to breed a snake that is used to the cold weather of its native Armenian and Turkish environs, city officials announced Tuesday.
Two Armenian vipers each gave birth to a litter, one on July 13 and another on July 16, after cold weather conditions similar to those of a “harsh Armenian winter” were replicated at the zoo, according to Ian Recchio, curator of Reptiles and Amphibians.
“Armenian vipers are difficult to reproduce in captivity because they come from a mountainous environment which has snow on the ground for a good part of the year,” he said.
In addition to the Armenian highlands and eastern Turkey, the viper species can also be found in western Azerbaijan and northwestern Iran.
Most snakes hatch from eggs, but the Armenian vipers came into the world through live births, zoo officials said.
Zoo animal care specialists made several failed attempts to breed the vipers, only succeeding when they built a habitat that resembles the rocky crevices and wintry temperatures the snakes typically consider home.
The courting ritual includes the parent vipers going into brumation, which is similar to hibernation, in a refrigerated environment for six months. When they awake, the prospective fathers duel each other for the chance to breed with the female vipers.
“This was the first time we had the chance to house the vipers in near-freezing temperatures in the scientific refrigerator and let the males engage in combat,” Recchio said. “We had a specific plan, and once all of the individual parts came into place we were able to reproduce this interesting viper.”
The baby vipers and their parents can be viewed in the “Care and Conservation” of the Living Amphibians, Reptiles and Invertebrates (LAIR) exhibit, zoo officials said.