Saving icons of the longleaf pine forest
The eastern indigo snake is native to Florida, southern Georgia and southern Alabama. These non-venomous snakes are the largest native snake in the U.S. (a large male can be 7–8 feet long!) and are solid black. But, if you look closely, you can see their scales are iridescent (word of the day) and reflect light with blues, purples and greens, so they are really quite beautiful.
On top of their beauty, eastern indigo snakes are impressive because they eat pretty much everything smaller than themselves, from large insects to rodents to even birds and fish. Their style is to overpower their prey with powerful jaws and swallow them whole. Oh, and they are also immune to snake venom and eat venomous snakes, including copperheads, cottonmouths and rattlesnakes. Pretty cool, huh?
(Side bar: Of course, venomous snakes are beneficial to humans too. Have you heard how researchers are using properties found in snake venom to find cures for human diseases? Ash Taylor in our Herpetology Team recently wrote a blog about this.)
Eastern indigo snakes are in decline, however, mostly because of habitat loss and human persecution. These snakes thrive in longleaf pine forests, but these forests have been reduced to about 10 percent of their historic range, and indigo snakes are just one of many species suffering by this loss of habitat.
But, there is hope! Zoo Atlanta is proud to play an active role in the conservation of eastern indigo snakes, and we partner with state agencies in Georgia and Alabama, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Central Florida Zoo’s Center for Indigo Conservation, the NGO Orianne Society, and Auburn University to collect indigo snake eggs, raise them and reintroduce them to the wild. It takes a village! Since joining the project, our amazing Herpetology Team has helped raise more than 100 snakes on grounds to be reintroduced to the Conecuh National Forest in Alabama, where indigo snakes had not lived since 1954. Read more about the program, and even donate directly if you think eastern indigo snakes are as cool as we do!
By visiting the Zoo, this in one of the many conservation programs you support with your admission. This one just usually slithers under the radar. Check out all our other conservation programs here. Thank you for visiting and continuing to support Zoo Atlanta as we work to save wildlife and their habitats near and far.