Milwaukee Public Museum Researcher Partners with UNC-Asheville Academic, Naturalist to Identify New Species of Boa in Dominican Republic

Sept. 2, 2021

Mia Tripi, 414-390-5500

Findings published by Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology 

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM) Curator Emeritus of Herpetology Robert Henderson has collaborated with researcher Dr. Graham Reynolds from the University of North Carolina Asheville and naturalist Miguel Landestoy to announce the discovery of a new species of boa in the Dominican Republic. 

“This was a totally unexpected discovery,” said Robert Henderson. “Although there are three other species of boa already known on the island of Hispaniola, this is the first new boa species to come off the island in 133 years.”

The small snake, dubbed a Hispaniolan vine boa or Chilabothrus ampelophis, was first identified by Landestoy in the summer of 2020 during a nocturnal survey. Landestoy enlisted the assistance of MPM’s Henderson and of Dr. Graham Reynolds, Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, to analyze DNA samples from the animal and confirm it had not previously been identified.

Henderson has been studying and researching boa biology for the last 30 years, working both at MPM and on the island of Grenada. According to Henderson and fellow researchers, this new species is in danger of experiencing rapid habitat loss. Researchers documented agriculture incursion into its habitat and rapid tree-cutting for charcoal production. With this new discovery of boa also comes increased research into conservation efforts for this species, and others - some of which remain undiscovered. 

Short and slender, Chilabothrus ampelophis makes its home in the tropical dry forests of Hispaniola, the Caribbean island where the Dominican Republic and Haiti are located. The species is entirely arboreal, living among the bushes, vines and thin trees in a small patch of forest. The researchers believe that the new species may be among the smallest species of boas globally. 

“The current landscapes of many Caribbean islands look nothing like they would have historically, largely owing to the extraction of resources and the conversion of land to agriculture and urbanization,” said Dr. Graham Reynolds, National Geographic Explorer and Associate Professor of Biology at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. “That so much biodiversity persists is in many ways rather remarkable given the centuries of disturbance on these islands, and it is perhaps even more remarkable that undiscovered species are still out there.”

Landestoy, Reynolds and Henderson described this finding in Breviora, a publication of Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology. To learn more about this discovery, visit

About the Milwaukee Public Museum

The Milwaukee Public Museum is Wisconsin’s natural history museum, welcoming over half a million visitors annually. Located in downtown Milwaukee, the Museum was chartered in 1882, opened to the public in 1884, and currently houses more than 4 million objects in its collections. MPM has three floors of exhibits that encompass life-size dioramas, walk-through villages, world cultures, dinosaurs, a rainforest, and a live butterfly garden, as well as the Daniel M. Soref Dome Theater & Planetarium. MPM is operated by Milwaukee Public Museum, Inc., a private, non-profit company, and its facilities and collections are held in trust and supported by Milwaukee County for the benefit of the public. 

About UNC-Asheville

UNC-Asheville’s national reputation for empowering human potential is rooted in its unique student-centric public liberal arts and sciences mission. UNC-Asheville thrives on close-knit connections among students and their faculty and staff mentors. The University’s 3,300 students are innovative, ethical, creative and resilient leaders who seek to understand complex global challenges and find creative, sustainable solutions that benefit our communities and the world. More than 65 percent of UNC-Asheville students conduct applied research alongside faculty experts. UNC-Asheville consistently ranks as a national top 10 Public Liberal Arts and Sciences University by U.S. News & World Report, and on its list of Most Innovative Schools. UNC-Asheville regularly earns several national top 20 rankings in The Princeton Review’s “The Best 386 Colleges,” including Best Quality of Life, Town-Gown Relations, and UNC-Asheville has ranked in the top two nationally for the “Best Schools for Making an Impact,” in The Princeton Review’s “Colleges that Pay You Back.” Learn more at