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Ornate Shovel-snout

Prosymna ornatissima


There is very little known about the ecology, population size and conservation status of the ornate shovel-snout. This secretive species was only rediscovered in 2007, having not being recorded since the 1920s, and is known from only a handful of sightings.

The ornate shovel-snout is a species of snake endemic to the Uluguru Mountains of Tanzania, where it has only been found in a small region of moist tropical forest around the villages for Nyange and Vituri. Pitfall trap surveys in the region have not recorded any specimens elsewhere in the Uluguru range.

This mysterious snake is part of the genus Prosymna, a small genus of snakes which comprise the subfamily Prosymninae. This genus of snakes diverged from all other living species more than 30 million years ago, around the time humans last shared a common ancestor with baboons!

It is suggested that this species is one of the two most highly-threatened species in the Uluguru Mountains. However, much more research is needed to determine the true status of the species. The Eastern Arc forests, where this species occurs, are under intense and widespread threat from habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation. These threats are particularly acute in the Kitmandu Hills, to which this species is likely endemic.

The ornate shovel-snout is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List due to its small range, which is thought to be less than 100 km2. Further, it is known only from a single location where loss of habitat is ongoing. This species is known only from one protected area and is found at relatively low elevations, making its habitat susceptible to conversion for banana plantations.

  • Order: Squamata
  • Family: Lamprophiidae
  • Population: Unknown
  • Trend: unknown
  • Size: 25.2cm (?)

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 5.49 (?)
ED Score: 14.169 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


The species is found in the Uluguru Mountains of Tanzania between 700 and 1,000 metres above sea level.

Habitat and Ecology

The habitat and ecology of the ornate shovel-snout is virtually unknown.

This is a fossorial species, spending much of its life burrowing underground. It was originally thought to depend on primary forest but the individuals that were rediscovered were encountered in cultivated habitat.

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