WE, a rare two-headed albino rat snake who became a corporate icon and popular tourist attraction, died on June 19 of natural causes at the age of 8.
A conjoined twin and a hermaphrodite, WE had both a boy and a girl head. The snake arrived at the St. Louis Children’s Aquarium (now known as the World Aquarium) in 1999 after being acquired from an Indiana snake breeder for $15,000. Most two-headed snakes live for only a few months, but WE thrived in the new environment. Experts attributed this to the fact that both heads were connected to the same stomach.
When WE was only a few weeks old, the snake was thinner and shorter than a pencil. Over the next eight years, he/she grew to almost five feet long and more than an inch thick. Last year, caretakers attempted to breed WE with Golden Girls, a two-headed snake from Wisconsin, but the process was unsuccessful. Plans were in the works to try breeding WE again this summer.
In 2004, a disgruntled city museum employee abducted WE. The man planned to sell the snake, but a tip led authorities to his garage where they recovered WE.
A popular attraction at the aquarium, WE received more than 1 million visitors during its lifetime. The snake was featured in over 450 magazine and newspaper articles worldwide and appeared on the TV program “Live With Regis and Kelly.”
In 2005, the aquarium attempted to auction WE on Reptileauction.com for $150,000, but there were no takers. The snake was being sold to fund conservation research, educational programming and exhibit development at the aquarium. Instead, the failed auction brought the snake a great deal of attention on the Internet and a corporate sponsorship deal. Nutra Pharma paid $15,000 to make WE its brand icon. The Florida-based biopharmaceutical company is developing treatments for multiple sclerosis and HIV using modified snake venom.
The aquarium has established the WE Memorial Fund to further support educational programming about the watery world. A taxidermist will preserve WE’s body so the rare snake can be displayed for future generations to see.
Watch a Video of WE Eating