Chinese scientists said they had successfully hatched some pearl-banded rat snakes, an endangered species peculiar to Sichuan province in Southwest China.
The mother snake laid the eggs about two months ago and baby snakes came out of eggs recently, said Dingli, deputy researcher at the Chengdu Institute of Biology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, on Sept 2.
The breeding marked an important step to understanding the species and the future protection, Ding said.
Because its habitat is quite limited and its wild population is rather small, it is difficult to fully understand this type of snake, Ding said.
The snakes, with dark and yellow stripes, were discovered in Sichuan in 1929. Scientists did not locate them again until the 1980s when Chinese scientists discovered specimens in Wenchuan and Luding counties in Sichuan, confirming they had not gone extinct.
In July 2014, scientists started to look for the snakes, under a State-funded program to investigate and protect small-population biological species in Sichuan.
A male and female snake was caught in July 2014 in Labahe Nature Reserve in Tianquan county. The snake parents did not breed offspring for three years, so researchers put them under sufficient exposure to light to facilitate their mating.
"I find this type of snake is rather active during early morning and at night," Ding said.
Their traditional habitat is in forests in western Sichuan and Shaanxi province, between 1,600 and 2,700 meters above sea level. They are likely to live under leaves and in piles of stones in thick woods, Ding said.
"From the new habitat and archive data, we have found the habitat of rat snakes is almost identical to those of pandas, which is a very interesting phenomenon," he said. "The snakes move slowly and are mild and non-poisonous, which means they can only live in a natural environment where there are few competing species."
"The snake and giant pandas may have gone through a similar evolution in climate changes in east Asia," he said.