There's a Deadly King Cobra Loose at a Swedish Zoo

'Houdini' is venomous but not aggressive, terrarium director says
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 24, 2022 2:27 PM CDT
There's a Deadly King Cobra Loose at a Swedish Zoo
Screenshot from eyewitness video shows a king cobra escaping through a light fixture at a Swedish zoo.   (Sharjah24 News via YouTube screengrab)

Anyone planning a visit to Stockholm's Skansen Aquarium will be out of luck, at least until the staff is able to wrangle an eight-foot king cobra that escaped on Saturday, according to the Local. The zoo's director, Jonas Wahlstrom, told reporters the snake has been dubbed "Houdini" after slipping through a light fixture in the terrarium ceiling. While its bite can be deadly within hours, Wahlstrom is confident the snake poses little danger. "It's venomous, but not aggressive," he told reporters. He also said there's no chance it will venture outdoors, where it would "doze off almost immediately" in the cold Swedish climate.

The male cobra was a new addition to the terrarium, brought in with the intention of breeding with another snake. But he turned out to be very curious and "clever," said Wahlstrom. Per CBS News, the staff recently replaced the terrarium's usual light bulbs with low-energy bulbs. "The old light was so hot that no snake wanted to get close," Wahlstrom explained. "But now it's not hot at all, and the new king cobra discovered this and ... managed to push itself out." A bystander caught the escape on video, which shows the snake gradually squeezing out of the enclosure. According to CBS's translation, a zoo visitor can be heard asking, "Is it safe to be here?" A zoo staffer replies, "No, but we're working on it."

The cobra reportedly ventured into the ceiling pipes, where it most likely remains. Staff have used a number of tactics to try to catch it—spreading flour on floors and installing fiberoptic cameras to track its whereabouts, and using traps baited with dead rats—but as of Tuesday, it was still on the loose. Cobras prefer a temperature around 86F. It's much colder than that up in the ceiling where the snake is currently hanging out, so Wahlstrom expects it to be relatively dormant when they find it. (More cobra stories.)

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