'Highly venomous' king cobra still at large at Stockholm zoo

TT/Becky Waterton
TT/Becky Waterton - [email protected]
'Highly venomous' king cobra still at large at Stockholm zoo
The king cobra before its escape on Saturday. Photo: Peter Alpstad/TT

A 2.5-metre-long king cobra snake was still on the loose in Stockholm on Monday morning, after escaping from its enclosure at the Skansen Zoo on Saturday.


The terrarium at Stockholm's Skansen open-air museum was evacuated on Saturday morning after the serpentine escape artist made its way out through a light fitting. 

"We've given him the name Houdini, after the famous magician," the terrarium's owner Jonas Wahlström told TT newswire.

On Saturday, staff tried a number of different tactics to catch the cobra, including spreading flour on the floor to see where the snake had been slithering, and using dead rats as bait.

Although the snake at first appeared to have disappeared without trace, it was later discovered hiding in the ceiling of the terrarium.

"We're looking for the snake and we've put out some dead rats which might tempt him to return," Wahlström said.

Wahlström told The Local that the search for the reptile was still ongoing on Monday, and was believed to be in a back room far from the public area used by visitors.

"It's not in the visitor area, but behind the scenes," he told TT newswire on Sunday. "It's cooler there and it's lying there and resting."

"It takes time to find a snake," he added. "We know roughly which area it's in, in the ceiling or by the ceiling of the terrarium area."

Staff don't believe that the snake has escaped outside the terrarium building, as the temperature in Stockholm is too cold for a tropical animal.

"If it goes outside it will get too cold, it wants a temperature of 30 degrees."


The king cobra made its escape just one day after it had been introduced into the terrarium in the hope that it would mate with one of Skansen's other snakes. It had previously been kept in another terrarium on the Skansen site.

According to Wahlström, the snake was unusually curious and had managed to find its way out while inspecting its new home.

"He had just been placed in the terrarium, was curious, investigated and got out through a light fitting," he explained. "There are lights in the ceiling which he's managed to get through. We've had king cobras before and nothing like this has ever happened."

He admitted, however, that this not the first time that one of the terrarium's animals had made its way out, "We had a lemur which escaped a few years ago during the winter."

The terrarium will remain closed to visitors on Monday, but the rest of Skansen will be open.

Although the snake is venomous, Wahlström said he was not concerned that it will attack anyone. 

"It will never meet a visitor," he told TT. "It's venomous, but not aggressive."

"Obviously we're going to change the light fitting," he added, "but otherwise there are no escape routes."


Thomas Thunmark, an expert on hunting snakes who works on removing the native European adder from buildings in Sweden, recommended that staff at Skansen use small cameras on fiberoptic cables to search for the cobra in ceiling pipes.

"I would have started with filming and looking at blueprints to see where the pipes go and whether it can have escaped through pipes which aren't used but are still open," he told TT newswire.

One way of doing so is using fiberoptic cameras, which are attached to a small screen which can be viewed from a safe distance.

On Sunday evening, a plumbing company had arrived at Skansen to place similar cameras in the ceiling pipes where the cobra is thought to be hiding.

Wahlström told The Local that he has "good hopes" that the snake will be captured soon using these new cameras, and expects that the snake will be calm when it is finally found.

"We've got these cameras now which can go into all the tight spaces we can't stick our heads into," he said.

"The temperature behind the scenes is around 17-18 degrees," he told The Local. "Inside the terrarium it's more like 30, so he'll be less active when we find him."

Bites from a king cobra should be treated with an antidote as soon as possible, otherwise their venom can be deadly within a few hours.

"It's not a snake you can ignore in any way," Thunmark told TT. "It's potentially deadly. It can take half an hour or two hours depending on the circumstances."

The cobra's neurotoxin blocks nerve signals in the body, causing victims to suffocate."You stop breathing and your circulation collapses," he said.


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