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Arubas shake it up for the summer

Posted by: Kirsten Pisto, Communications

It’s summer time! The season for lounging in the sand, soaking up the sun and shaking your rattler! Our beautiful female Aruba rattlesnake, Crotalus durissus unicolor, is doing just that at the Day Exhibit.

An Aruba's sunset-colored coil. Photo by Kirsten Pisto/WPZ.

These peach and rose colored rattlesnakes don’t just shake it for anybody though; this rare rattler is only found on one small Caribbean island, Aruba.  Because the species has such a small range, it is nearly extinct in the wild.

The snakes are critically endangered primarily because of habitat loss as well as persecution, especially due to tourism and urban sprawl. These snakes live in vulnerable habitat in a tiny area. Fortunately, the government and people of Aruba understand the importance and value of their own special kind of rattlesnake, and have set aside a large portion of the interior of their island as protected habitat for this rattlesnake and other wildlife.

Our pretty snake warms herself by basking under a heat lamp. Photo by Kirsten Pisto/WPZ.

The snake on exhibit here is a 20-year old female. Previously, we housed two females who gave birth to 40 babies, as part of the Species Survival Plan's goal of maintaining a self-sustaining zoo population. Two dozen zoos are involved in the cooperative Species Survival Program, which has successfully increased the zoo population of this species.

In the wild, you’ll find this snake in the thorn scrub, a dry, subtropical desert landscape on the southeast part of Aruba. The Aruba rattlesnake doesn’t normally hang out on the beach itself, but it will stretch out on the warm desert sand. Arubas can be as long as 37 inches and as large as 3 pounds, although the females tend to be a bit smaller.

The scales of an Aruba match its desert habitat. Photo by Kirsten Pisto/WPZ. 

Aruba rattlesnakes eats rodents, birds and lizards in the wild, but here at Woodland Park Zoo our Aruba dines on mice.

You can help protect rattlesnakes from Aruba to Washington state by giving them your respect. While these venomous snakes can be dangerous, they rarely strike without being provoked. If you hear a rattle or spot a snake sunning itself the best thing to do is slowly turn around and walk away.

If you are heading into the Day Exhibit, stop by and check out this beautiful viper. She is most active in the morning, but she is just as pretty when she is sleeping!

Did you know that the genus for rattlesnake, the Greek word Crotalus, refers to a castanet? A castanet is a small percussion instrument made of a pair of concave shells which are snapped together in one hand, in other words, a rattle! Photo by Kirsten Pisto/WPZ.