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New snake named after 7-year-old

The world's newest snake has menacing-looking yellow and black scales, dull green eyes and two spiky horns, and is named after a seven-year-old girl.

Matilda's Horned Viper was discovered in a small patch of south-west Tanzania about two years ago and was introduced last month as the world's newest known snake species in the scientific journal Zootaxa.

Tim Davenport, the director of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Tanzania, was on the three-person team that discovered the viper. Thanks to his daughter, the snake will always carry a family namesake.

"My daughter, who was five at the time, became fascinated by it and used to love spending time watching it and helping us look after it," he said. "We called it Matilda's Viper at that stage ... and then the name stuck."

Only three new vipers have been discovered across Africa the last three decades, making the find rare and important. The Wildlife Conservation Society is not revealing exactly where the snake lives so that trophy hunters cannot hunt it.

Mr Davenport said he is not sure how many live in the wild because snake counts are difficult. Twelve live in captivity and a breeding plan is being carried out.

Mr Davenport, a Briton who has lived in Tanzania for 12 years, said that while many people fear snakes, most are harmless and help keep rodent numbers down. Matilda's horned viper can grow to two feet or bigger, he said.

"This particular animal looks fierce and probably is venomous (though bush viper bites are not fatal)," he said.

"However, it is actually very calm animal and not at all aggressive. I have handled one on a number of occasions."


From Belfast Telegraph