By Associated Press - Friday, July 24, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - Zoo Atlanta officials say they’re planning to release nine eastern indigo snakes in the Conecuh National Forest in southern Alabama.

The snakes are being released Friday as part of a partnership with Auburn University, the Central Florida Zoo’s Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation and others to restore the wild eastern indigo population.

Three of the nine snakes were raised at Zoo Atlanta. Officials say about 100 have been released into the forest since the program launched in 2008 as part of an ongoing initiative to re-establish the species in areas of the Southeast.

“Zoo Atlanta is known for conservation efforts in Africa, Asia and Latin America, but our mission begins in our own backyard,” said Raymond B. King, president and CEO. “The eastern indigo snake partnership gives us some of our most tangible rewards in knowing that not only do we have an opportunity to educate our visitors about a Georgia native, but we’re also making a direct impact on re-establishing that species in the wild.”

Additional project partners include the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Zoo Atlanta officials say the snakes receive care and food behind the scenes and away from public view since they’re designated to be released into the wild. The snakes are considered ready to live in the wild when they’re about 18 months old.

The nonvenomous eastern indigo snake is a native of southern Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. It overpowers, rather than constricts, its prey by using the crushing force of its jaws.

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