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Consistently producing babies is the only way to prove the efficiency of an alternative method for captive breeding an extremely sensitive species like the Atlantic bushmaster, Lachesis muta rhombeata. According to Zamudio and Greene (1997) "the Atlantic bushmaster will continue to be recognized as a subspecies by those who feel that category fills a useful role in systematics". I include myself among those few.
In my 2006 paper [Concerning Lachesis and Capoeira, Bull Chicago Herp. Soc. 41(4):65-68] I stated that, at that time, my breeding program was a complete failure, but the accumulated knowledge would soon lead to our first positive results.
My 2007 paper [Reproduction of the Atlantic Bushmaster (Lachesis muta rhombeata) for the First Time in Captivity, Bul Chicago Herp. Soc. 42(3):41-43] shows how we managed to achieve success. But would we be able to repeat it in those low-tech chicken houses within the jungle, where parasite control seemed impossible?
The answer is yes, and in a 2008 paper with Dr. Earl Turner and Rob Carmichael [Dialogues on the Tao of Lachesis, Bull. Chicago Herp. Soc. 43(10):157-164] my "primitive herpeto-culture" was presented in detail. That’s the path that led to the images we intend to share now, concluding the process of proving a method: 32 babies in 2009.
Again, the forest provided all elements for the incubation period. Temperature, humidity, light - everything was natural. At 24 - 25oC we may have recorded the longest period of time from egg laying to pipping for the genus Lachesis: 92 days.
To me, it’s at miracle level to even think of an egg surviving for three months in the jungle. That alone would be enough trouble for the species, but let’s also remember the 93% habitat destruction.
It took some endurance to stick to our own beliefs amidst so much prejudice and doubt but, in the end, it was worth it.
Perhaps, the most exciting aspect about this genus, is that its history is being written at this very moment: it's June 10th, 2009, 7:10 PM - captive breeding challenges aside, its range distribution has just changed. After months of search, for the very first time one can place Lachesis in Maranhão State, northern Brazil (Dr. Marluze Pastor, Maranhão State's Head of the Federal Environmental Agency - IBAMA, and colleagues - detailed personal comunication). A true never-ending story.