Captured white cobra goes on exhibit at San Diego Zoo

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Monocled Cobra at San Diego Zoo. Photo taken December 2014, by Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo.

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SAN DIEGO — A venomous white monocled cobra that made headlines in early September, when she was reported loose in a semi-rural neighborhood in Thousand Oaks, moved into her new home Tuesday at the San Diego Zoo’s Klauber-Shaw Reptile House.

Zoo officials said the snake appeared a bit shy initially, but it didn’t take her long to explore the habitat filled with mulch, live plants and rock ledges, providing her places to hide.

“We expect it may take her a few weeks to get used to her new surroundings,” said animal keeper Rachael Walton. “Being a cobra, she likes to hide, so visitors to the zoo may want to look closely under the rock ledge or in the planter bank in her enclosure to get a good glimpse of her.”

Keepers plan to monitor the snake to ensure the new environment provides her an opportunity to thrive and exhibit behaviors specific to the species.

The cobra is leucistic, meaning she is mostly white rather than the usual brown and beige colors of the species. Leucism is characterized by reduced pigmentation, unlike albinism, which features no pigmentation.

The snake, estimated to be around 2 years old and measuring just over 4 feet long, arrived at the zoo Sept. 5 and underwent a 90-day mandatory quarantine. Believed to possibly be a pet that got loose or was released, the reptile eluded animal control authorities for four days before being caught and
sent to the Los Angeles Zoo.

The San Diego Zoo was asked to take the cobra because it is one of only two zoological facilities in the U.S. stocked with the proper anti-venom.

Because the snake attracted a lot of social media attention while on the loose, the zoo set up a public online vote to name her at www.bit.ly/whitecobra.

The choices, befitting the cobra’s Southeast Asian heritage, are Adhira, which means lightning; Sapheda, or white; Krima, cream; Cini, sugar; Moti, pearl; and Sundara, beautiful. The voting will end Dec. 31 at 4 p.m. and the winning name will be announced shortly afterward on the San Diego Zoo’s Facebook page.

The cobra species, which is not considered threatened, is illegal to own in California without a permit, according to the zoo.

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