MEMPHIS, Tenn. (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Researchers from the Fort Worth Zoo teamed up with the zoo in Memphis, Tennessee and released 50 endangered Louisiana pine snakes into a national forest in an attempt to revive their population.

On April 22 — Earth Day — the Memphis Zoo’s research team and partners from the Fort Worth Zoo, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the zoo in Alexandria, Louisiana, released the young pine snakes into their natural habitat in Kisatchie National Forest.

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The juvenile snakes were safely placed into tunnels where pocket gophers live in the Louisiana forest, the Memphis Zoo said. The snakes’ main prey is pocket gophers. Researchers hope the snakes will breed effectively, helping increase the species’ population in the wild.

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The Louisiana pine snake is native to the longleaf pine forests of Louisiana and Texas. Since 2010, Memphis Zoo research director Steve Reichling has led captive breeding programs that involve artificial insemination as well as natural breeding, the Memphis Zoo said.

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