New snake species: the Zoos Victoria wolf snake or Lycodon zoosvictoriae. Photo by Neang Thy/FFI.
A new species of wolf snake has been discovered in the forests of the Cardamom Mountains of southeast Cambodia. The species is described in the current issue of the journal Zootaxa.
Lycodon zoosvictoriae is named after Zoos Victoria, a conservation group based in Parkville, Australia that has provided support to Fauna & Flora International (FFI), whose researchers — along with herpetologists from Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig in Germany — made the discovery.
Lycodon zoosvictoriae is a cryptic species that is thought to be both arboreal and terrestrial. Like other wolf snakes, the species is characterized by long, large teeth in the front of their mouth. Lycodon zoosvictoriae measures only 40 cm (16 inches) and likely hunts small lizards and frogs.
The authors, led by Neang Thy of FFI, say the species is likely endemic to the Cardamoms, a range that rises to more than 1,500 meters and houses some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the Indo-China region, which has suffered from large-scale forest loss.
Lycodon zoosvictoriae wolf snake. Photo by Neang Thy/FFI.
Thy says that naming the species after Zoos Victoria is a fitting way to honor the group’s contributions.
“Naming this species in honor of Zoos Victoria will ensure a memorable and historical record of the support they’ve given FFI, both in discoveries and conservation of the Cardamoms,” he said in a statement.
Lycodon zoosvictoriae is the second high profile snake discovery in the Cardamoms by FFI in the past two years. In 2012, Thy described Oligodon kampucheaensis, the Cambodian kukri.
The Cambodian kukri, discovered in 2012. Photo: Neang Thy/FFI.
At the time of that discovery, Thy noted that science in Cambodia is experiencing a sort of a renaissance after being brutally suppressed under the rule of the Khmer Rouge.
“Cambodian science was smashed under the Pol Pot regime, and only now are we picking up the pieces. It gave me a great sense of pride to both discover and describe this species, and to name it in honor of my country.”
CITATION: Neang Thy et al. 2014. A new species of wolf snake (Colubridae: Lycodon Fitzinger, 1826) from Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary, Cardamom Mountains, southwest Cambodia. Zootaxa, vol. 3814, no. 1; doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.3814.1.3