Beautiful new snake discovery in Honduras

Male Bothriechis guifarroi, the newly discovered palm-pitviper from Honduras (photo: Josiah H. Townsend)

From Wildlife Extra:

New species of green pit viper found in Honduras

Named after murdered conservationist

May 2013. A stunning new species of bright green palm-pit viper has been discovered in a threatened cloud forest in northern Honduras. The snake, discovered by Josiah Townsend and Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) graduate student Melissa Medina and has been named in honour of a conservationist who was murdered for his outspoken views.

Campaigned against forest destruction

The new species has been named as Bothriechis guifarroi, or Guifarro’s Palm-Pitviper. The name is given to honour Mario Guifarro of Olancho, Honduras, a former hunter and gold miner who became an outspoken conservationist when he saw the vast rainforests of eastern Honduras being destroyed and converted to cattle ranches. After years of threats and multiple attempts on his life, Guifarro was ambushed and murdered on September 15, 2007, while on a mission to delimit a biosphere reserve for the Tawahka people, an indigenous group that lives in the rainforests of eastern Honduras.

“We hoped to use the description of such an exciting new species as an opportunity to draw attention to the dedication and sacrifice not only of Don Mario Guifarro, but of the many grassroots conservationists in Honduras and throughout the developing world who go unacknowledged,” said Townsend. “I worked with Don Mario in eastern Honduras during 2001, 2002, and 2003, and his dedication to conservation and unbelievable skill in the rainforest had an influence on me that I will carry throughout my life.”

Nearest relative found in Costa Rica – Considered Critically Endangered

Because of similarity in colour pattern, Guifarro’s Palm-Pitviper was previously confused with other Honduran palm pit vipers. Genetic analysis revealed that the closest relatives of the new species are actually found over 600 km to the south, in the mountains of Costa Rica. “This discovery has important implications for Central American biogeography as well as for conservation. We recommend Bothriechis guifarroi be immediately classified as Critically Endangered due to its limited known distribution and the potential for anthropogenic damage to its habitat. We also consider this species to warrant immediate protection under CITES, given its striking appearance and high potential for exploitation in the pet trade,” said Townsend.

The snake was discovered by Townsend and collaborators during two expeditions in 2010 aimed at studying the fauna of Texiguat Wildlife Refuge, one of the most endemism-rich and diverse highland forests in Mesoamerica. This beautiful but toxic snake represents the 15th endemic species occurring in the region. Texiguat Wildlife Refuge was created in 1987 to protect populations of wildlife such as the famous but elusive jaguar and Central America tapir, as well as howler and white-faced monkeys, sloths, and a variety of endemic amphibians, reptiles, and plants.

The study was published in the open access journal Zookeys.

See also here.


8 thoughts on “Beautiful new snake discovery in Honduras

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