Two herpetologists from the U.S. Bronx Zoo rescued an Indian cobra (Naja naja) which was a stow away on a container ship destined for the APM Terminals at the Elizabeth-Port Authority Marine Terminal in New Jersey.
The approximately 18-inch long snake was found dehydrated, cold and exposed to oil residue in one of the cargo holds of the Maersk Sana.
The cobra, which is a protected species, was taken to the Bronx Zoo where it is being treated by veterinarians. The snake's condition has improved since its arrival at the zoo.
Kevin Torregrosa, one of the two Bronx Zoo staffers who rescued the animal, said “When we located the snake deep below the deck of the container ship, it was in very poor condition. We are cautiously optimistic regarding its recovery."
The ship was heading from Singapore to the United States when the crew discovered the cobra in the hold on December 10.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contacted the Bronx Zoo on Monday, December 14 to help remove the cobra from the ship when it reached New Jersey.
Torregrosa responded to the request for help along with fellow herpetologist Avi Shuter.
Once the ship docked, Torregrosa and Shuter, equipped with snake tongs and hooks, a snake bag, headlamps, and antivenin, boarded the vessel, descended eight stories below the deck, and began their search where the highly venomous snake was last seen by the crew.
It took approximately half an hour to locate the cobra and it was placed in a snake bag, hoisted back to the deck and brought to the Bronx Zoo. Torregrosa estimates the cobra is about one year old, and its sex is unknown at this time.
The Indian cobra’s native range is Southern Asia, including in India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. It can be found in urbanized and rural areas, as it preys on rodents.
“We have not yet determined if the cobra will remain at the zoo permanently" said Jim Breheny, Bronx Zoo Director and WCS Executive Vice President of the Zoos and Aquarium. “At present, the snake is in quarantine and under treatment at our wildlife health center. Our main concern is to restore it to good health. We were happy to assist the ship’s crew and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with this rescue.”