The Puff Adder, a relative of the Albany adder. Image: Bernard Dupont, Wikimedia Commons

This extremely rare snake was thought to be extinct — until a recent expedition revealed four living individuals. 

The Albany adder, also known as the ‘eastern hornsman adder’, is a viper sub-species found only in South Africa. Its range is restricted to the eastern and southern Cape Province and it was considered potentially extinct until just recently.

An expedition comprised of members from the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and the Rainforest Trust (RT) ensued in November that involved scouring the Cape area in search of the mysterious serpent. These small snakes measure less than a foot in length and boast exquisitely patterned reddish brown bodies. They lack the typical ‘viper’ horns found over the eyes and instead have large bulges.

This team of scientists found five out of only twelve individuals that have been identified since the discovery of the species in 1937. Four of them were living specimens while one had been killed by a vehicle.

Habitat loss is the biggest threat to the species’ survival, defined by the results of urbanization, mining, and vehicular traffic throughout the area. The Albany adder was encountered in small patches comprised of shrubs and thickets belonging to the endangered Coega Bonteveld vegetation type.

The exact location of the snake is not being revealed for protection purposes. Trophy collectors pose a prominent threat to all endangered species.

Although the rare serpent has been located, scientists still know hardly anything about it, including how venomous it is, its reproductive behavior, or diet.

Conservation groups are working on securing the snake’s natural habitat in order to ensure the species’ survival, which would also allow for future study of these animals in the wild.

“I certainly think it’s among the most threatened [species] globally,” stated Bryan Maritz, regional coordinator for the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Viper Specialist Group to National Geographic.

The video below shows the interaction between a puff adder and a mongoose: