This newly discovered snake species, named Matilda's Horned Viper after the discoverer's 7-year-old daughter, lives in Tanzania somewhere. Beyond that, who can say? The answer is nobody (except Matilda's dad Tim Davenport, who took the photo above, and maybe a handful of other people from the Wildlife Conservation Society), because the snake lives in an undisclosed location. The viper is so endangered that conservationists are keeping its exact habitat a secret, out of fear that it will attract trophy hunters and exotic animal poachers.
It is often the case that the first few specimens of a newly discovered bush viper can be worth a high price and this can have a very damaging impact on the population, In the case of Matilda’s Horned Viper, a sudden rush to collect as many specimens as possible could actually extirpate the species in the wild. To avoid the unsustainable collection of such a rare snake, we have agreed with the editor of the scientific journal Zootaxa — where the species description is published — to keep the locality as vague as possible (only very general information is given), with the possibility of more specific information provided by the authors on request, for scientific purposes only. Such a practice should be taken into consideration by taxonomists every time a new, rare species of potential commercial interest is described.
A species this new can't be classified as endangered — there's some paperwork to do first. But the snake has a range of only a few square miles (SOMEWHERE), and researchers are predicting that it will be considered critically endangered. They've set up a breeding program in Tanzania (SOMEWHERE), partly to ensure the species' survival even if it does get overrun with poachers, and partly to provide specimens of the new snake to animal breeders in order to dissuade them from trying to collect the vipers in the wild.
New species of viper gets pretty name and low profile, New Scientist.
Get Grist in your inbox