Stowaway Cobra Found On Ship: Deadly Snake Frightens Crew Members

A stowaway cobra was part of the cargo aboard the container ship Maersk Sana, which arrived in New Jersey this week, and the deadly snake gave crew members quite a scare when they discovered it in one of the cargo holds of the ship. According to CNN, the ship was headed to port from Indonesia when a crew member discovered the 18 inch long Indian cobra, which is highly venomous and responsible for the majority of human deaths by snakebite in Asia.

“We knew it was in a cargo hold on one of these ships, which I’d never been on before,” said herpetologist Kevin Torregrosa, who works at the Bronx Zoo. “It was a very large ship.”

Torregrosa was one of the two Bronx Zoo staffers who rescued the animal, and he explained that the snake was located “deep below the deck of the container ship, and it was in very poor condition.”

U.S. wildlife officials were first notified of the stowaway cobra, who then called in reptile experts from the Bronx Zoo. The Wall Street Journal wrote that Torregrosa said he and another herpetologist arrived at the container ship Monday armed with some courage, venom antidote, tongs, hooks and a snake bag.

The two men had to go eight floors below the deck of the ship, where the dangerous snake lurked in the darkness. Torregrosa described the journey to get to the snake as being more stressful than capturing the cobra, now named Sana.

“It’s a really narrow ladder with very little lighting, so that was more unnerving than anything,” he said. “Kind of just did a sweep around, and found the snake sitting on a platform a little elevated off the ground.”

It reportedly took about half an hour to locate and capture the extremely dangerous snake. The herpetologists captured the cobra in the same cargo hold where the crew had initially spotted it.

The venom from an Indian cobra is so dangerous that one bite can kill a human in just one hour with severe paralysis and convulsions. Therefore, it must have been quite frightening for crew members when they discovered they had been traveling with such a potentially deadly passenger. Although it is unclear as to how the snake got on the container ship, the stowaway had probably sneaked aboard the ship when it set sail from Indonesia to head to the United States.

Wall Street Journal’s report says a special agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in New Jersey speculated the cobra had been sunning itself on the cargo container somewhere overseas before it was accidentally loaded on board. The agent pointed out that the containers sometimes sit out at seaports for hours.

No one was hurt during the rescue, but the snake’s health, however, was in bad condition after the long and cold boat ride. Wildlife Society officials say the animal was dehydrated, cold and covered in oil residue. As of the time of this report, it remains in quarantine at the Bronx Zoo’s wildlife health center.

The Indian cobra is native to the Indian subcontinent and can be found throughout India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and southern Nepal. The diet of an Indian cobra mainly consists of rodents, lizards, and frogs. As well as biting, the Indian cobra can attack or defend itself from a distance by “spitting” venom, which, if it enters the opponent’s eyes, causes severe pain and damage. It is greatly respected and feared, and even has its own place in Hindu mythology as a powerful deity.

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