Zoo Partially Shut Down After King Cobra Stages Escape, Remains on the Loose

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Amith Nag Photography via Getty Images)

Snakes are creatures of many talents. They strike with unbelievable speed, have heat-seeking abilities, hear with their jaws, and smell with their tongues. Those with venomous bites, such as the king cobra, are able to control the amount of venom injected.

Contrary to popular belief, snakes don’t unhinge their jaws to eat – their upper and lower jaws were never attached in the first place. This is what allows them to feast on prey much larger than themselves.

In addition to all those incredible, somewhat terrifying, abilities, snakes are master escape artists as well. When caring for a snake, it’s essential to ensure that they have absolutely no way of sneaking out of their enclosure. Because if they find an exit, they won’t hesitate to slither through it.

Now, this isn’t all that concerning for those with a typical pet snake. Corn snakes, for example, might resemble the deadly copperhead but are actually completely harmless.

For a zoo housing some of the world’s most venomous species of snake, however, an escape puts everyone in danger – the visitors, employees, other animals, and the snake itself.

This weekend, a Swedish zoo found itself in this unfortunate scenario when their newest tenant, a king cobra named Sir Vas (Sir Hiss) escaped his enclosure. To make matters worse, it’s now been three days and the employees have yet to find the venomous vagabond, forcing the zoo to keep its reptile section closed to the public.

Zoo Director Explains How the King Cobra Escaped His Enclosure

So, how did this happen? Is this a regular occurrence? Does this zoo not take the proper precautions to keep their venomous snake population house appropriately? Well, according to Jonas Wahlstrom, the answer is simply that Sir Vas, renamed “Houdini” after his stunning escape, is an exceptionally cunning king cobra.

The terrarium in which Houdini lived has been housing king cobra for around 15 years, and in that time, not a single one of its residents escaped. But Houdini is apparently no ordinary cobra. After just a few days in his new home, he vanished without a trace.

“It turned out to be clever,” Wahlstrom jokingly told CBS. He explained that, just before Houdini’s arrival, zookeepers replaced the existing light in his terrarium with a low-energy bulb. Rather than the blistering heat the regular lightbulb emitted, this one was quite cool.

“The old light was so hot that no snake wanted to get close,” Wahlstrom said. “But now it’s not hot at all and the new king cobra discovered this and wedged its head in between the lightbulb and the light fixture and managed to push itself out.”

The remaining sections of the zoo remain open, as zoo officials are confident that the snake will not leave the warm safety of the reptile section. And even if it did, the autumn weather in Sweden is enough to put the snake in instant hibernation.

“It won’t get out,” Wahlstrom explained. “But hypothetically, it’s also so cold outside that it would doze off immediately.”