TORONTO, ON, Thursday, July 12, 2018: The Toronto Zoo would like to announce that Mary, a 15 year-old female Jamaican boa (Chilabothrus subflavus), gave birth to five live young on Tuesday, May 15, 2018.
This is Toronto Zoo’s first successful breeding of the species, and the first time Jamaican boas have been bred in Canada since the early 2000s, which is important for Jamaican boa conservation as a whole. The species, known locally as the “Yellow snake”, are listed as a Protected species under the Jamaican Wildlife Protection Act and listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. They are threatened due to deforestation, the burning of the sugar cane fields and persecution due to the mistaken belief that they are a danger to humans. The deliberate introduction of exotic pest species, including cats, pigs, dogs and Asian mongoose, to assist in the control of rats, have all become threats as they prey on Jamaican boas.
The Jamaican boas that bred were paired through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). Philippe Lamarre, MSc., Wildlife Biologist and Herpetoculturist, contacted the Toronto Zoo and offered to loan Zoo two female Jamaican boas, Mary (the mother) and Joanna, to pair with two males which the Toronto Zoo imported from the Chester Zoo in 2013. Lamarre’s animals are registered in the International Studbook and the Toronto Zoo received SSP approval for the loan in 2016, and these births would not have been possible without this partnership.
“Only through a collaborative effort on many different fronts will we be able save this beautiful snake from extinction,” says Rick Vos, Interim Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles, Toronto Zoo. “The birth of these five snakes is a small part of a much greater plan currently in motion to ensure the long term survival of the Jamaican boa. The keepers in the Americas Pavilion have risen to the challenge and performed exceptionally in their efforts to produce the first baby Jamaican boas born at the Toronto Zoo, which is a remarkable accomplishment.”
The Toronto Zoo introduced the two pairs of boas in January of 2017 and breeding was witnessed in September of that same year. In March 2018, the Zoo was excited to confirm Mary was pregnant, also known as gravid, through ultrasound. All five of the Jamaican boa babies, two of which have left the Toronto Zoo are now with Lamarre, are eating and appear to be doing well.
The Jamaican boa mates between February and April, with the onset of the breeding season stimulated by change in temperature, day length and rainfall. After fertilization, the eggs are retained in the body, where they are nourished by yolk reserves for around six to seven months before hatching. The young, which may number between five and 44 individuals, are born live, each measuring around 50 centimetres in length.
The Toronto Zoo is part of the Jamaican Boa Species Survival Plan (SSP), which aims to establish and maintain healthy, genetically diverse populations, and overall conservation efforts to save this incredible species. One of the Toronto Zoo's mandates is to educate visitors on current conservation issues and help preserve the incredible biodiversity on the planet.
Please note, the Jamaican boa babies are very sensitive as neonates and are not currently visible to the public.
Please note, media are not permitted in the maternity area of the Jamaican Boa Habitat. Toronto Zoo staff will provide updates, photos and video as they become available.
The Toronto Zoo would like to announce that a five year-old female tentacled snake (Erpeton tentaculatum), gave birth to five live young on Monday, July 2, 2018.
This is Toronto Zoo’s 12th birth of a tentacled snake, the last two being born in April 2013. Tentacled snakes bear live young with up to 10 young in a litter. They are born live underwater. The tentacled snake belongs to the Colubrid subfamily: Homalopsinae, a group of rear fanged aquatic and semi-aquatic snakes, which range over much of southeastern Asia, Indo-China, New Guinea and northern Australia. It is completely aquatic and is virtually helpless on land. It is a relatively small snake, with an average size of only 50 to 75 centimetres. The head is small but distinct from the neck. The eyes are small and round. There are two short tentacles protruding from the snout of a length of 13 to 19 millimetres. The body has markedly keeled scales and they vary in colour from dark brown to tan or pale gray. The darker specimens have a pattern of tan/yellow ventral stripes, the lighter ones have a dorsal and lateral pattern of brown, reddish brown or black bars.
Please note, the tentacled snake babies are on exhibit in Indo-Malaya Pavilion and, although sometimes challenging to see sometimes, are visible to the public,