Blue pit vipers and royal pythons: Exotic snakes born at Moscow Zoo

Blue pit vipers and royal pythons: Exotic snakes born at Moscow Zoo
The reptiles can be viewed in the Snakes and Lizards pavilion located in the old part of the zoo.

Blue pit vipers, the blue variety of the white-lipped island pit viper, and royal (ball) pythons have come into the world at the Moscow Zoo. Experts will be able to tell what sex they are after the first moulting.

“The new addition to the family of blue pit vipers is an important event for our zoo, because these snakes are still being researched. Interestingly, a couple of blue-colour snakes can give birth to green babies. White-lipped pit vipers are viviparous. This means that they give birth to youngsters that are ready to fend for themselves,” said Svetlana Akulova, general director of the Moscow Zoo.

The blue pit viper gave birth to eight babies in late July. Zoo workers took several months to prepare the special conditions required in the snake’s enclosure. As of February, they increased the temperature and the humidity there, thus creating an illusion of an early spring and the beginning of the mating season. All newborns are blue like their mother. The gestation takes some five months; two-year-old snakes are considered to be fully grown. An adult male can reach 60 centimetres in length, while females are bigger and can reach 81 centimetres. The lifespan of a white-lipped pit viper is 10-12 years.

Out in the wild, these snakes inhabit small islands in Indonesia, with their colours varying from island to island. They can be green, yellow or sky blue. These venomous snakes live mostly in trees and bushes, and come down only during the mating season or after heavy showers.

According to Svetlana Akulova, the pair of royal pythons have also had a new addition to the family. These non-venomous snakes are also called ball pythons due to their ability to coil up into a tight ball when threatened, with their head and neck tucked away.

Three baby pythons hatched on 9 August. The incubation period lasts 64 days, during which the female tightly winds herself around the eggs. Two of the young pythons inherited their mother’s champagne colour; the third one looks like its father with bright spots on its skin. The royal python is one of the smallest python subspecies. Adults reach 1.2-1.5 metres in length. They live for as long as 30-40 years in captivity.

Out in the wild, they inhabit West and Central Africa. Pythons are mostly nocturnal and during the day prefer to hide in holes, hollows in trees and fallen leaves and hunt during the night or when twilight approaches. Their diet consists mostly of small mammals such as rats, but they have also been known to hunt birds.

Visitors can view the blue pit snakes and royal pythons in the Snakes and Lizards pavilion that is located in the old part of the zoo, near the elephant enclosure.

This year, Rare Dalmatian pelicans and bush dogs were born at the zoo. The maned wolf, a very rare species from the dog family, also had cubs. A family of Humboldt penguins produced offspring in March. Now, the Moscow Zoo is home to the biggest group of these birds in Russia, including nine breeding couples and over a dozen birds of different ages, from fledglings to adult penguins. In total, there are 35 of them.

A rare ring-tailed lemur gave birth to a pup, and a black stork was born during the spring. In June, a Northern Luzon giant cloud rat came into the world, and the hornbill family also had a new addition. Newborn pink and red flamingoes can be seen in the Big Pond. In August, the couple of rare white-tailed eagles had offspring.